Guilt-Free Piña Colada Smoothie Bowl

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I think we can all agree that on a hot summer day there is nothing that hits the spot quite like a fresh, icy Piña Colada. The combination of coconut and pineapple are just about the only surefire way to evoke those tropical beach-side vacation feels that we’re all craving during these hot summer months.

Unfortunately, “piña colada” and “high-calorie indulgence” were basically synonymous in my book until recently, when I decided to take matters into my own hands.

The result was the most refreshing, tasty and (here’s the kicker) NUTRITIOUS smoothie bowl I have had in quite some time. Not only does this bowl satisfy those summer coconut-pineapple cravings, it also packs in fruit, veggies, healthy fats, and plant protein!

In the blender:

  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Cauliflower
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Pineapple
  • 1/2 Cup Ice
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk
  • 2 Tbsp of Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
  • 1 Tbsp Agave
  • 1 Tbsp Flax Meal
  • 1 Tbsp Hemp Seed Hearts

It took these ingredients slightly longer to combine smoothly than some of my other bowls, so I recommend letting it blend on medium or high for 3 minutes or until the consistency is somewhat thicker than that of a smoothie.

On Top:

  • 3 Fresh Strawberries
  • Granola
  • Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
  • Cinnamon

This was absolutely the perfect breakfast for a hot summer morning, and I will most definitely be recreating it in the very near future. I would love to know if you have any modifications or substitutions that might improve it!

 

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If you’re interested in learning more tips and tricks for low calories smoothie bowls or trying any of my other recipes, check out some of these posts: Low Sugar Smoothie Bowl Hack, Sweet-Green Smoothie Bowl, Strawberry-Dragon Bowl

 

A Kombuchanary Fail

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Let’s be real, kombucha is seriously awesome. Incase you’re unfamiliar with Kombucha it’s a fermented beverage of black tea, a special colony of bacteria and yeast, and some sort of sugar (could be from fruit, honey, cane sugar, or other various sources) that becomes carbonated and contains probiotics, enzymes, b-vitamins, vinegar, and tons of other good stuff. It’s great for your gut flora and it tastes amazing, it gives you energy and an immune boost, it detoxifies and aids digestion, it’s basically a super-beverage.

Every time I have had kombucha, I have absolutely loved it and experienced many benefits from it… except for one thing: it made my skin break out the next day, every single time I drink it without fail. I knew that this side effect was simply the detoxification process beginning and my body getting used to these new bacteria colonies in my gut, but even still my vanity stopped me from consuming any kombucha – I avoided it like the plague for almost three years!

Recently I decided to do a little experiment on myself and see how long this negative side effect would stick around if I drank a little bit of Kombucha every day. I am happy to report that the subtle blemishes subsided in only a couple of days and I am now able to drink Kombucha in peace!

The moral of the story? Trust the process of detoxification! It has to happen somehow, and the sooner you let it happen the sooner you’ll reap the benefits. Happy Kombuching, y’all!

 

 

 

 

Yogi Diaries: Inversions for Beginners & My Favorite Resource

As I’ve mentioned before, balance is not something that comes naturally to me. That being said, the extra effort it takes for me to master balances and inversions in no way deters me from working hard and achieving those goals! In my opinion, the hard work and perseverance it takes to get into these poses makes them all the more rewarding.

For me, achieving and maintaining inversions requires a lot of extra practice outside of the studio. If I’m super short on time and just want to maintain my progress, I’ll usually just do a warm up before going into the inversions I have mastered and holding them for 10 yogi breaths each.

If I do have time, however, I love to use resources like Yoga Journal to expand my practice through their expansive archive of free yoga videos. When I was first mastering inversions, I got into the habit of watching the same video almost daily to practice safely and correctly going into my inversions, and it worked wonders for my practice!

This video starts by warming you up for your inversions by taking you through some balancing poses and practice kicks, which I find to be extremely helpful (especially if I haven’t practiced yet that day). If you are already warmed up, however, you can skip to 9 minutes and 55 seconds which is where the yogi brings you to the wall to get right into the inversions. She focuses on traditional head stand, tripod headstand, and handstand.

The best part is that this awesome video caters specifically to beginners, so no matter how little experience you have with inversions you will reap the benefits after watching it even once! Click here to watch the video and start mastering inversions now (side note: don’t worry if you don’t have a yoga strap or a block).

 

If #RAW is Wrong, I Don’t Want to be Right

Today I finally got the chance to go to #Raw, a vegan cafe in Florence, and once again I was blown away by the vegan presence here in Italia. Let me just start out by saying that they served me coconut water straight out of the coconut… I mean, does it get any better than that? Not to mention that it was hands down the best coconut water I have ever tasted.

The inside of #Raw is a minimalistic, trendy atmosphere laden with bamboo furniture and plates as well as hanging plants and cotton pillows. It’s light, fresh, and welcoming and I will be spending a great deal of time there.

Today, I ordered a vegan falafel veggie wrap with avocado and a light peanut sauce. It was completely raw and completely delicious! I usually am not a huge fan of raw bread substitutes, but this wrap was one of the only exceptions I have found thus far. I absolutely loved it!

The menu at #Raw is the stuff of my dreams, there are beautiful salads, smoothie and chia bowls, a vegan burger, a full smoothie and fresh juice menu, vegan deserts and baked goods, and much more… It’s safe to say #Raw is a vegans paradise in basically every way possible, and I can’t wait to try everything on the menu!

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Yogi Diaries: A Crash Course on Chakras

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Now that the yogi lifestyle and zen vibes are having a moment in pop culture, the 7 chakras are everywhere – and for a good reason! Balancing and awakening your chakras can have so many benefits that most of us are largely unaware of. Because the concept of energy centers in the body can be somewhat foreign to most of us Americans, the chakra system has the potential to be hard to “buy into” or understand. Well never fear, my soon-to-be energetically balanced friends, I’m here to boil it all down to the simplest of terms and help you understand the basics of the 7 chakras.

The chakra system dates back to over 3,000  years ago in India where they were first recorded in The Vedas, or the oldest collection of writings in India. Since then many variations of the chakra system have become extremely important in many Eastern spiritual traditions, including Hinduism and Yoga.

The basic and most widely accepted chakra system is made up of seven unique energy centers – or chakras – spread between the base of the spine and the space directly above the crown of the head. This system is based on the Hindu chakra system, where each chakra is regarded as a perpetually evolving energy hub and is associated with certain emotions, issues, and other aspects of human life.

Having “balanced chakras” basically means that each chakra is adequately functioning and governing its characteristic emotions, issues, etc, and that no one chakra is over or under active. It could almost be compared to a seven sided seesaw. An over active or under active chakra can be associated with emotional, mental, spiritual, even physical issues, which is why it’s important to be in touch with your own chakras on a regular basis.  If one chakra isn’t functioning properly, there are countless different ways to get in touch with it and to foster a more balanced relationship between that chakra, the other chakras, and you (including meditation, chanting, vibrational healing, yoga, the list goes on..).

Like I said, each of the seven chakras is tied to certain aspects of human life, including emotions and issues. Beyond this, however, each chakra is also associated with its own color and personal strengths or weaknesses (among many other things that I won’t delve into here) and is located in a specific area along the spinal cord. Without further ado, may I introduce to you the seven chakras, starting from the first, bottom-most chakra and moving upward:

  1. The Root Chakra:
    • Location: Base of spine at tailbone/coccyx
    • Color: Red
    • Sanskrit Name: Muladhara
    • The Root Chakra is associated with ones basic needs (home, health, safety and security) being met. It regulates our sense of groundedness and stability, especially in our home lives. This can be literal, such as our basic human needs for food and shelter, or it can be more metaphorical and tied to things like financial security and familial relationships.
  2. The Sacral Chakra: 
    • Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below the navel
    • Color: Orange
    • Sanskrit Name: Swadhisthana
    • The Sacral Chakra is associated with feelings and sensations, sexuality, creativity, and emotions. It encourages us to feel the world around us and take pleasure in it and it governs our sense of well-being, sensuality, and happiness.
  3. The Solar Plexus Chakra:
    • Location: Stomach or upper abdomen
    • Color: Yellow or golden-yellow
    • Sanskrit Name: Manipura
    • The Solar Plexus Chakra is related to ones sense of self-worth and self-esteem, as well as ones personal identity and independence. It governs ones ability to find direction in life and make choices, it is strongly tied to ones inner power and self-image.
  4. The Heart Chakra:
    • Location: Mid chest, above the heart
    • Color: Green
    • Sanskrit Name: Anahata
    • The Heart Chakra governs ones relationships and feelings (especially those of love, empathy, and forgiveness) as well as ones connectedness to his or her world. It is tied to ones sense of inner peace, as well as ones ability to give and receive emotionally.
  5. The Throat Chakra:
    • Location: Throat
    • Color: Blue
    • Sanskrit Name: Vishuddha
    • The Throat Chakra is related to ones ability to communicate and truly express themselves. It’s said to help one find his or her vocation or purpose in life as well as ones personal truths.
  6. The Third Eye Chakra:
    • Location: Space between the eyebrows
    • Color: Purple, or bluish purple
    • Sanskrit Name: Ajna
    • The Third Eye Chakra is known as ones center of intuition, insight, and wisdom. It regulates ones connection to the less physical aspects of life, as well as ones creativity and ability to make decisions. The third eye is associated with one’s ability to access intangible realms and spirituality.
  7. The Crown Chakra:
    • Location: Top of head or slightly above
    • Color: White, although also associated with a deep purple
    • Sanskrit Name: Sahasrara
    • The Crown Chakra is said to regulate ones connection to the universe or higher power, open-mindedness, spirituality and wisdom, and sense of inner and outer beauty. It is associated with the ultimate form of bliss or enlightenment, as well as connection with the divine form of ones selfChakrasWomanDescription

There is so much to say about each chakra that I would never be able to cover it all in a simple explanation, but I hope these brief excerpts about each one can serve as a basic introduction. I encourage you to continue to research the chakras on your own if they are of interest to you, you can even start by taking this short chakra test to see how balanced your own chakras are.

My relationship with chakras has been one of healing, realization, and gratitude. It’s my hope that more people will be touched by healing through chakras in the same way that I have, and perhaps this post can serve as a starting point for someones journey. If you have any questions or comments about chakras, this post, or my relationship with chakras, please feel free to comment or reach out to me! Otherwise, happy meditating & stay balanced 🙂

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Street Art Got me Thinkin

As you’ll find out in posts to come, I’m super into street art. I wish I was artistic and gutsy enough to make my own street art, but alas I’m just an admirer. I’ve been seeing this stencil around the streets of Florence and sometimes it gets me to reflect. I thought these were some funny interpretations of how the media thinks for me…

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“Today I’m going to be original and take a picture of the sunset… I don’t think that’s ever been done before”

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Takes basic [vegan] gelato pic… “Am I trendy?”

Chickpea-Spinach Burger of my Dreams

It’s official, Florence will never cease to amaze me with its vegan friendliness. Today I had the most interesting, intelligent, and downright awesome meal at a darling restaurant called simBIOsi, and I will 100% be back for more. SimBIOsi offers the most beautifully unique collection of dishes and wines all made from local and organic ingredients, served to you in an equally beautiful and unique atmosphere.

Today, I tried the chickpea and spinach “burger” that comes with vegan pesto and a side of potatoes. The “burger” patty was unlike anything I have ever seen or tasted before, it almost felt like a hybrid of a giant falafel and a crispy veggie burger – whatever it was, it was magnificent. The rosemary potatoes and vegan pesto that came with it were equally as delectable and the three elements complemented each other to no end. Needless to say, I was in heaven and I will be returning as soon as possible.

Just when I thought a menu including a vegan chickpea and spinach burger with rosemary potatoes and vegan pesto couldn’t get any better, I flipped to the wine list. The wine is also all organic and local, we decided to try their “Orange Wine” because we had never heard of Orange Wine before. Our glass of wine followed suit with the rest of our experience in its delightful and unexpected flavor, and it was the perfect refreshment to go along with our decadent meal.

All in all, it’s no question that this was undoubtably one of my favorite meals in Italy thus far – definitely the most unique. I absolutely cannot wait to return to SimBIOsi, there were countless other dishes that I am dying to try (like a handful of “potato” ravioli, vegan pesto, and zucchini dishes). I think this is the beginning of an extremely symBIOtic relationship 🙂

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An Acai Bowl Abroad

If there’s one thing you can probably deduce from the food section of my blog (aside from my flaming veganism) it’s that I am nothing short of obsessed with smoothie bowls. From my point of view, they’re just the most perfect food: delicious, nutritious, versatile, customizable, and the list goes on..

Anyway, you can probably imagine the separation anxiety I have been feeling from my soul-mate-meal since I have come to Italy, leaving behind my blender and my go-to Bay Area smoothie bowl spots. There’s nothing like a big, satisfying bowl of health and deliciousness to start the day off right, and I was about to go crazy if I went another day without one.

Luckily, this morning I was able to find a great smoothie bowl right in the heart of Florence at Shake Cafe! I tried the classic Acai Bowl with almond milk (substituted for cow’s milk) and every topping offered. They also offer a green bowl, a tropical bowl, a chia bowl, and a power bowl (you know I’ll be trying them all, so stay tuned for the verdict)!

The Acai Bowl was absolutely wonderful, it had the perfect amount of flavor, everything about it was fresh, and the topping-to-base ratio was just right. Not to mention how cute and photogenic it was for the 5 seconds before I devoured it. Anyway, Shake Cafe, you’ve done it again and I will most definitely be back for much, much more!

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P.S. Do you know of any great smoothie bowls for me to try in Florence or the San Francisco Bay Area? Comment below or shoot me a message and I would love to check them out!

P.P.S. Want more of my smoothie bowl obsession? Check out my posts: Low Sugar, Low Calorie Smoothie Bowl HackQuick n’ Easy Sweet Green Smoothie BowlStrawberry Dragonfruit Smoothie Bowl

Le Vespe Cafe: Breakfast Ideals with SF Feels

While I can never say enough wonderful stuff about Italy, what I do miss dearly about the USA are giant cups of coffee and filling breakfasts complete with included sides of potatoes. Probably for their own good, Italians don’t value breakfast and overindulge in it the way us Americans do, which means it can be hard to find the same breakfast options that we have grown accustomed to. Add a vegan diet to this predicament, and the challenge is even more daunting!

This morning I set out on a mission to fill the vegan breakfast void that growing dependent on True Food Kitchen brunch at home has left me with. Fortunately, this problem was easily and quickly solved when I stumbled upon Le Vespe Cafe – an extremely vegan friendly cafe that also offers a hip and funky atmosphere, vegan baked goods to-go, free wifi, and cool vintage board games like Monopoly, Battleship, and Pictionary if you’re into that. Not only does Le Cafe Vespe have amazing vegan food options, it also has a fantastic smoothie and juice menu with options like Matcha Boost and Tropical Trip, as well as an expansive breakfast cocktail menu with Bloody Mary’s and fun takes on Irish Coffee.

This morning, I needed to find a spot to settle in and work on my coding class and enjoy a fortifying breakfast – which is exactly what I got! I ordered an American coffee and I swear my heart almost exploded out of my chest when I saw the giant mug of delicious coffee they brought me… and it only went up hill from here.  I ordered “The Dundas” which is a tofu scramble wrap with chipotle seasoned potatoes, avocado, spinach, mushrooms, and more and also comes with a small salad and a side of breakfast potatoes. It was one of the best breakfast’s I have had, and it definitely filled the aforementioned void that True Food Kitchen’s vegan chorizo burrito left me with.

Basically, this place is absolutely perfect and I will most definitely be back to try their Sunday brunch cocktails, smoothies, vegan baked goods, and multitude of other delicious looking vegan lunch and breakfast options. In a place like this, it’s all I can do not to say “I’ll have one of everything”!

6 go-to Vegan Meals to Have Under your Belt in Italy

If you’re a vegan and anything like me, you always have your go-to restaurant dishes in the back of your head to order in a pinch at any establishment. Coming to Italy as a vegan means adapting your go-to meals to fit the average Italian menu. In the USA, there are tons of vegan options constantly surrounding us that we take for granted like Mexican, Asian, and American style options. In Italy, however, the variety is less obvious. On top of that, Italian Cafe’s, Bars, and Osteria’s have such amazing ambiance that it would be a shame to miss out on them for the sake of keeping to a vegan diet. Luckily, if you keep an eye out for these six basic Italian dishes you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful, stress free, vegan Italian meal at any restaurant in Italy! Here are my six fool-proof vegan Italian meals:

  1. Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce: This comes in many slight variations, but is always a great choice that will fill you up and taste amazing. Some common variations are different types of pasta noodles, or spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil. Gnocchi is also a great option since it is made with potatoes! 
  2. Minestrone or vegetable Soup: I have yet to have a bad bowl of soup in Italy. Each one differs slightly but is equally as delightful. If soup alone isn’t filling enough I often opt for a side of potatoes, french fries, a green salad or a piece of bread or two! Or you can always go fill up on some sorbet afterward…  😉
  3. Bruchetta with Tomato and Basil: As is true of the dishes above, bruschetta will differ slightly from place to place (sometimes it can even come as a panini) but there is almost always a cheese-free option. 
  4. Grilled vegetables: The grilled vegetables in Italy are seriously underrated. They often come beautifully seasoned, slightly blackened, and gorgeously plated. You will see mostly tomato, eggplant, and bell peppers with basil and various other vegitables like carrots, squash, zucchini, potato, artichoke or whatever is in season. Although this dish is more filling than it would seem, if you need something more it goes perfectly with some soup, potatoes, pasta or even bread! I find that I often enjoy the free bread so much that I don’t need more than a heaping plate of veggies anyway. 
  5. Mushroom Risotto: Contrary to what many may think, risotto actually isn’t inherently creamy. The way the rice is cooked just creates a creamy texture, which can be deceptive to those trying to avoid dairy. Having said that, I still like to double-check that there is no cheese or cream in my risotto. Mushroom risotto is on almost every dinner menu, and is one of the most rich, filling, and even decadent vegan Italian dishes you will find. 
  6. vegetable Pizza With No Cheese: Veganism by no means stops me from enjoying pizza just as much as the next guy. All you have to do is find the vegetarian pizza that looks the best to you and ask them to leave off the cheese!

While this is my little list of vegan meals to look for, there are tons of other options and cuisines available in Italy! As usual, many things can be easily veganized or a few sides can come together to make an awesome meal. On top of that, as I continue to eat my way through the city, I am constantly finding that Florence is riddled with amazing options just for vegans! In any case, never fear my fellow vegans – there is absolutely no shortage of delicious meals in Italy!

Amalfi Coast, Italy 

This weekend my roommates and I spent the weekend romping around the gorgeous Amalfi Coast of Italy. It was hands down one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, I only wish we could have stayed longer! We spent our nights enjoying the sunsets and delightful restaurants in the town of Sorrento (we stayed at the Sisters Hostel, which I highly recommend) and spent one of our days on the island of Capri, and the other on the beach in Positano.

Our day in Capri was absolutely unforgettable. We took a boat tour around the Island, visiting a handful of beautiful caves. One of which was the famous “Blue Grotto” which is lit up on the inside with by natural fluorescent aqua lighting and can only be accessed via tiny row boats that you have to lay flat in to get inside the cave and are operated by Italian men who sing operatic Italian songs in the echoing cave. Another must-see highlight of Capri was the view from the chairlift up to the top of Mt. Solaro where there are more breathtaking views and a picturesque cafe where you can get a spritz or glass of prosecco and overlook the island.

Positano was yet another wonderful coastal location that I will never forget. In Positano we spent our time lounging on the beach, enjoying beachside cocktails with the Amalfi coast’s signature limoncello and Italian craft lemon beer, and popping in and out of quaint boutiques and delightful art exhibits. The view of the houses on the hillside of Positano was everything it’s built up to be and more, although the bus ride down it to the beach was a ride I feel blessed to have survived. This coastal town is a gem of the Amalfi coast, and if I ever have the opportunity to return I will make a point to stay there for a more extended period of time.

Below are some of my favorite photographs from this trip, although I took so many pictures it was impossible to choose! The Amalfi coast is such a magical place that it’s perfection could never be done justice by a camera, but I hope I was able to capture a little sliver of this big slice of heaven!

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Capri:


Positano:

Capri Succulant 

I’m currently on a bus on the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy driving from Sorrento to Positano having some fun playing around with the photos I took yesterday in Capri! I absolutely cannot wait to share more of my photos from this trip in a post on Sunday (update: I posted them, see Amalfi Coast, Italy ). For now, I have this fun adaptation of a pretty potted succulent I saw in Capri yesterday to share with y’all. Enjoy the weekend!

Venezia 

Before arriving at my temporary home in Florence, Italy I was lucky enough to have the wonderful opportunity to spend a couple days in Venice! I was absolutely enchanted by this city on the water, it’s unlike anything I have ever seen before and there are endless opportunities to enjoy yourself and your unique surroundings. Some of my favorite things in Venice are the gorgeous views of the water and the gondola boats. Here are a few of my favorite photos from vantastic Venezia 

My favorite Florentine violinist 

I added some personal touches to a photo of my favorite street violinist who sits outside the Gucci Store Florence and makes beautiful music (as if real life doesn’t do him enough justice).

Croatia – Rovinj, Split, Dubrovnik

This past week I had the opportunity to drive down the coast of Croatia. It was the most beautiful experience that I would recommend to anyone who loves coastal beauty. I made three stops, the first of which was Rovinj, a picturesque small Istrian town based around a castle on a hillside that overlooks the Adriatic Sea. Next, I saw Split which is a fun city that is also located on the Adriatic Sea. My favorite part of Split was the Old Town which is a collection of the most amazing shops, restaurants, and bars set in Diocletian’s ancient castle which overlooks the Adriatic Sea as well. Finally, I went to Dubrovnik which is where my favorite HBO show, Game of Thrones, did a lot of filming (it is where most of the scenes set in Kings Landing are shot). Dubrovnik is also a town set in an ancient castle overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the most dramatic and beautiful cities I have ever seen, with no shortage of breathtaking views and experiences. Here are some photos from my time in this beautiful country, I hope you enjoy!

Rovinj:


Split:


Dubrovnik:


These are just a few of the photos I got in magnificent Croatia, I hope you enjoy looking at them even a fraction of the amount I enjoyed taking them!