A Glance into the Vegan Life

A few friends of mine recently turned vegan and noticed an improvement with weight management, an increase in energy, and feel overall much healthier…so I thought I’d give it a try for a month to see how it made me feel.

Here’s how it went for me…

WARNING: You may become very hungry after reading this post.  It’s all about FOOD.

WEEK 1 – Start date: November 3rd

It was a bit of a rocky start, as it took time to become reaaaaaaally aware of ingredients…and there were a few oversights because of things I automatically cook with during meal prep, such as oyster sauce and Better than Bouillon chicken stock, which are now blatantly obvious! lol

On November 4th, we watched Georges St Pierre fight, at a sports bar.  Not many vegan options, as you could assume.  We had onion rings and yam fries…not very healthy and now that I think about it, it was likely not deep-fried in a vegan way either.

The following day I made up for it by going to the Vancouver Health Show, learning some things and discovering some vegan food products, such as “pulled pork” using young jackfruit instead of pork.  Also picked up amazing vegan dumplings from one the vendors, House of Yee.  Later that evening, I went for happy hour drinks at Earls Kitchen and had a delicious Quinoa & Avocado Powerbowl, while I watched my family eat chicken wings, tuna poke, and meat pasta.  I love all those things but luckily the powerbowl tasted amazing, so I was barely even phased.

That week, I meal prepped more powerbowls.  I admit, I became a little obsessed with powerbowls…because they were so yummy, so colourful, and so easy to prepare!  The powerbowls consisted of chickpeas, quinoa, orange peppers, cucumber, spinach, corn, and avocado…and then I had it with hot sauce.  I pretty much ate these for lunch and dinner until I became tired of them.

WEEK 2

After a week or so, I started to get the hang of it and was better at catching myself from eating things with eggs or dairy hidden in them.  I also was pleasantly surprised at how restaurants are able to cater to veganism.  I went to Hapa Izakaya with a couple friends, and the server pointed out all the vegan-friendly options AND had the kitchen make a few off-menu items just for us.  We ended up enjoying a roll, a salad, a stone rice bowl , yaki udon, and a whole lot of sake.  It was a great night.

The next day was my niece’s birthday, so knowing that there would be nothing we could eat there, we went to Jinya Ramen Bar for the Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen (add corn), my new favourite dish!  Then after playing with the kids for 3 hours, we had worked up an appetite, so we went to a nearby sushi joint to have a few vegan rolls.  Later that night, some friends & I enjoyed a big meal at The Naam in Kits, a vegetarian restaurant with live music on the weekends!

The next day, I went to Virtuous Pie with the same vegan homies from the previous night.  On Monday’s, they have all-day happy hour with select pizzas and wine on special!  This place is amazing, whether you’re vegan or not.  And then the day after that, we went for vegan hot pot at Little Sheep Hot Pot.  They have a vegan broth (which comes out clear as water, but don’t worry, it becomes more flavourful throughout your meal) and a huge selection of veggies and sides that you can order a-la-carte.

For lunches, I prepped powerbowls again.  Quick, easy, and delicious. Pretty much used the same ingredients, but then I became a little tired of them by the end of the week again.  This is when I realized I needed to become more creative when cooking vegan meals!

On Friday, I finally went to try Melu Juice Bar with a girlfriend.  Had their lunch combo that came with juice (I had The Hulk), a salad (Undercover Curried Rice w/ Zoodles), and a health bar (Salted Pecan Pie).  Everything tasted sooooo good, and the shop is really cute too!

WEEK 3

On November 18th, we decided to take a break from veganism and enjoy all the things at Pan Pacific’s Opera Buffet.  It was a fantastic meal and made me realize that I’m okay with incorporating some meat back into my diet.  I had really been missing fish!  Dairy and red meat, I could live without…and especially being lactose-intolerant, I try to stay away, and take a Lactaid pill only when absolutely worth it.

The next day, I meal prepped chickpeas, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and zucchini for my lunches.  It was a nice change, and still super simple to prepare!

My lunches were healthy but I was finding that the rest of my meals were quite carby, since most vegan options I craved were noodle dishes or vegan pizza.  I hadn’t noticed many health benefits yet, other than feeling less gross or heavy after meals.  The difference was more noticeable after eating out, like having vegan ramen vs chicken ramen.

WEEK 4

It was around this time where I decided to be 86% VEGAN – that’s 3 meals a week where I can have meat.  I was missing sashimi like you wouldn’t believe…and then I was magically treated to sashimi and sushi rolls at Tojo’s!  If you haven’t been, you must go.

Following that weekend, my lunches were consistently healthy and vegan, and my dinners were either salad or noodles, depending on cravings or who I was dining with.

And here we are after a month of veganism.  It has definitely tapered off (maybe about 50% vegan now) and I decided to go back to eating meat because I felt like I was missing something from my diet.  My eczema came back in full force and I found myself craving heavy carbs again… but on the plus side, this vegan trial made me want to eat cleaner and get more creative with my meal preps.  I made butternut squash for the first time, and I loved it.   I dine often with my vegan homies, so there are still many more restaurant/recipe discoveries to be made!

So there’s a glance into the vegan life… and some really awesome vegan restaurant recommendations for all you foodies out there!

xo,
Sheena

 

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Bao Down

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I recently went to Bao Down Gastropub + Raw bar for my birthday (twice in one weekend actually!) and enjoyed it so much that I have to share my experience.  They opened in February 2015.  I had been hearing about this place a lot but never gave it a try until a friend recommended we go there for our joint birthday celebration.  Well, I’m so glad we did!  My parents had even suggested we go there for my birthday celebration with the fam, but I suggested elsewhere since I was already going the same weekend.  During my meal though, I messaged my family to say we could go there the next day after all, since there were SO many other items I wanted to try! haha  Their menu was filled with Asian Fusion dishes and their restaurant had a cool Hip Hop feel to it.

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Over the two days, I got to try the following dishes:

  • Fly Hawaiian Poke – Albacore Tuna w/ Sesame-Shoyu
  • Throw Backs – Bao Chicka Bao Bao (mini baos, taco style)
  • Lettuce Wraps – Sizzling Pork
  • Green Papaya Salad
  • Alberta Beef Short Rib Kare Kare
  • Same Same but Different (pad thai noodles)
  • Garlic Fried Rice
  • Halo Halo (dessert)

I would consider all of these dishes comfort food, with the exceptions of the tuna poke and papaya salad.  All were delicious and I’d recommend trying all of them!  My top 3 favourites would have to be the Throw Backs, Green Papaya Salad, and Same Same but Different.  My least favourite would probably be the Short Rib, as it was a bit too salty for me.  The Halo Halo was an epic complimentary birthday dessert!  Very cool presentation but not quite my style as I usually try to avoid dairy and don’t like red bean or purple yam ice cream…but I tried some anyways and it was a cool mix.

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Here’s a breakdown of my overall experience!

PROS:

  • Cool atmosphere, loved the wall mural and the hip hop music
  • Great menu selection
  • Awesome service, great staff!
  • Food was delicious and well-made

CONS:

  • The saucy dishes (lettuce wraps and short rib) were a bit too salty for me
  • The plates we received for the birthday cakes on Saturday were covered in soya sauce and vinegar – honest mistake but giving you my full review 🙂
  • For the complimentary birthday dessert on Sunday, might have been a good idea to check if the birthday girl had a dairy-allergy first lol but I appreciated it nonetheless!

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Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself!  The staff was friendly, welcoming, and on top of things.  Our water glasses were never empty, our table was constantly being cleared, and we were checked on regularly by not only our server but other staff.  The food was delicious and I’ll definitely be going back on another cheat day.  The Olympic Village & Gastown locations have slightly different menus, so check them out online and take your pick!

Enjoy!

xo,
Sheena

Tractor Foods

There are several amazing salad bars around Downtown and I usually find myself at the Korean-owned one in International Food Court because they have a huge variety of salad toppings and hot foods (including jap chae, meat balls, chicken, baked broccoli, and spring rolls), and I can elaborate on them in another post…but when I’m feeling like a more upscale salad bar with a nice sit down area so I can dine with friends, then I’ll head to Tractor Foods.

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My favourite combo:
Roasted Cauliflower + Chickpea – Roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, radicchio, orzo, kalamata olive dressing
Kale + Chickpea – Kale, shredded parmesan cheese, roasted chickpeas, toasted almond, with a lemon tahini dressing
Seared Albacore Tuna Steak
Grilled Avocado

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Comes to about $14 and is VERY filling.  Their Butternut Squash Soup is also delicious and perfect for a rainy day.

There are locations in Downtown on Burrard St, in Kits on West 4th and now in Olympic Village on Quebec St.  You can also order take-out online and it’ll be ready for you upon arrival.

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Where are your favourite salad bars?

xo,
Sheena

 

Cherry Berry Self-Serve Yogurt Bar

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A new froyo place opened up in Coquitlam recently, so naturally, I had to try it out.  For your guys’ sake…you know, quality assurance.

What did I think of it?  First impression – I thought it was a very cute shop.  Bright colours, happy music, friendly service, and lots of seating.  They had several flavours of frozen yogurt and I appreciated how they were all categorized.  I headed straight to the dairy-free sorbet and picked out raspberry sorbet and peach sorbet.  Deliciously refreshing!

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After selecting my sorbet, I moved on to the toppings.  You might find this weird but I am totally down for sweet, chocolatey and even peanut buttery toppings on fruity sorbet.  I’ve just come to see it as the norm when I get froyo, even though I don’t normally like to mix fruits and chocolate.  This is just different.  The toppings I used were skor, rice crispies, peanut butter M&M’s, mini Reece’s, mochi, lychee poppers, and a mini rice crispy square (and I was impressed that it was soft and chewy!).

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Just look at that deliciousness!

Needless to say, I was quite pleased with the variety of their frozen yogurts/sorbets and their toppings.  I was comparing it to Qoola and Menchie’s, and I’d say they are worthy competitors!  It’s a great place for sit-down froyo with family and friends, as there is lots of seating…including kid-friendly seating which I’ve demonstrated here! lol Oh yeah, and they’re open until 10:00pm…that’s late for Coquitlam 😉

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Right now, they’re giving out coupons for your next visit.  Should definitely check them out soon; you won’t regret it!

Enjoy!

xo,
Sheena

Teppan Kitchen

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Teppan Kitchen opened in Harbour Centre a few months ago and I regret not going sooner.  All those meals where I could have been devouring curry beef brisket, grilled pepper steak, and hainanese chicken…sigh.  You can probably see where this review is going but let me elaborate.

I’ve been to their Aberdeen location in Richmond before and loved that my meal was served on a skillet – adds to the experience and keeps the food hot and fresh.  The thing that’s unique about their Harbour Centre location in Downtown though, is that they also serve Hainanese Chicken!  And the thing that’s special about their Hainanese Chicken is that it’s BONELESS!  That was a huge selling point to me because I don’t enjoy the hassle of having to eat around the bone, plus I tend to waste a lot of meet when it’s bone-in.

Let’s do a breakdown of my meal…

20160616_162131.jpgLemon Iced Tea – Quite possibly the best I’ve had.  Whenever I get them in restaurants, I usually have to ask for the sweetener on the side because they always way add to much.  I believe Teppan’s is pre-made by the pitcher, and they use just the right amount of sweetener.

Hainanese Chicken – Again, BONELESS.  Extremely tender and not dry at all.  Flavour was perfect too – not too bland, not too strong.  I also usually eat my chicken skinless to avoid fat, so I was pleased that it was easy to take off and that there wasn’t much underlying fat.  I thoroughly enjoyed the chicken!

Chicken Rice – I love chicken rice flavouring and sometimes work it into my meal prep when I want to change it up.  The flavour was good and the portion was generous (I only ate about half), but it was a tad on the dry side.

Cucumbers – These were more so a garnish but I wish the dish came with more…because veggies are good for you, and these cucumbers were so refreshing!  Lucky for me, I went with a friend who despises cucumbers so I was able to have his (Thanks, Jay!).

Service – All the dishes are made to order so they come out fresh!  At lunch peak times, there will be a wait, but there’s an ample amount of staff to keep it moving as efficiently as possible.  Also, I believe they’re open until 6:00pm so that’s enough time to pick it up after work and bring it home for dinner, which is exactly what I plan to do one day because my Grandma LOVES Hainanese Chicken.

Here’s a closer look at the deliciousness that is the “Hainanese Chicken with Chicken Rice”.

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Overall, I enjoyed the Teppan Kitchen’s Hainanese Chicken and will 100% be back again.  Perhaps I could sub half rice for more cucumbers?

If you work in the Downtown area, you need to make your way down to Harbour Centre’s food court to give this place a try.  You won’t regret it!

xo,
Sheena

 

Glory Juice

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I’ve been craving an Acai Bowl since returning from Hawaii in December.  I didn’t know we had it here in Vancouver so I’d try to make my own smoothie bowl at home (blend mixed frozen berries with almond milk, top with granola and a banana), but it still wasn’t quite right.  Then all of a sudden I started hearing of local juiceries and smoothie bars serving up Acai Bowls – hallelujah!

Took me awhile but I finally made it down to Glory Juice on 2nd Ave in Vancouver.  They said their most popular is the “Nuts” Acai Bowl (below) and I have no doubt that it is.  Just look at it!

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My Review

Glory Juice Co. – The server wasn’t that friendly, I expected a bit more for such a bright, happy, health-inducing place…but maybe she was having an off day.  The price is also a little high, though I think it’s comparable to all other juiceries offering Acai Bowls in the area.  They have an amazing selection of juices and other products, I’m definitely interested in going back to try them.  I’m also interested in their nut butter, made in house!

Acai Bowl – Enjoyed EVERY bite!  The smoothie stayed frozen enough until the last bite.  The granola was not only on top but also within the smoothie, and stayed crunchy.  There was a perfect balance of every ingredient so that I could have a slice of banana, a chunk of granola and a scoop of acai smoothie in every bite.  This bowl is a must-try!

Have you found amazing Acai Bowls in Vancouver?  Do tell!

xo,
Sheena