Vegan Taco Salad (with lentil and walnut “meat”)

Ehyooo. My first post of 2018. In 2016 and 2017 I sat down and wrote meaningful pieces about the year ahead.

2018 is a whole different ball game, y’all. I know everyone says this but, THERE JUST ISN’T ENOUGH TIME. Updating my blog has been at the bottom of a long list…

That being said, I’m going on 3 months at a job I love (and that keeps me busy). I’ve been doing more yoga than ever. I feel caught up with a lot of friends and family. My house has recovered from the holidays. And we’re eating pretty healthy around here. Speaking of….. what’s better than a taco salad loaded with fresh ingredients? (How about that segue, huh?;)

I love Mexican food (California girl!) but often feel too full after (which may or may not be because my actual superhero power is to finish any burrito ever – no matter the size!). Self control are two words I just don’t know when there’s yummy goodness wrapped in a tortilla in front of me. Who else!?

That’s why taco salads are great. (Especially in January; coming off a month of nothing but indulgence.) All of the flavor without having to exercise my superhero powers of polishing off a burrito the size of my head.

We had a giant taco salad for dinner the other night and it was so satisfying. Plus, I bet most people would mistake the lentil and walnut “meat” for actual ground beef. #notjoking it’s so good. Seriously. Make it tonight!

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Note: inspo for this recipe came from Oh She Glows. Alternations are based on what was and wasn’t in my kitchen already.

Another note: I don’t have a food processor and a blender works …alright. Truth be told, it takes time and effort to keep scraping down the sides of the blender to get it all blended. For this reason, it’s great to make extra here so you can freeze and use later. (Also, is it just me or is washing the blender the most annoying kitchen appliance to get clean? So many nooks and crannies!)


Lentil and walnut “meat”

Prep time:  10 minutes – Cook time: 25 minutes – Servings: 4 -6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • Chopped white ends of a bunch of scallions
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons oregano
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
  • .5 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

  • Bring 1 cup green lentil and water covering them to a boil; reduce, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until soft
  • While lentils are cooking, heat walnuts in a nonstick pan at a low heat* (stirring occasionally) and chop white ends of scallions
  • Once walnuts are heated and giving off a toasted aroma, place in blender
  • Add olive oil and scallions to pan and sauté until tender (I turned the stove off after this and let the scallions sit until the lentils were softened)
  • When ready, add lentils to same pan and stir in spice mixture
  • Add lentils, spices, and scallions to blender with walnuts
  • Blend well until ingredients are fully incorporated  (should have a crumble texture)
  • Scope out and serve in tacos, burritos, or on a taco salad!

*you can also do this in your oven but I prefer using the pan for less dishes!


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The flavor.. 🙂
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Before
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Blended!

 

Holiday festivities

Oh, whoa. How are we already down to the last 2 weeks of December?! This year flew by. It seems like every year is over faster than the last, doesn’t it?

Like most people around this time, Mike and I have been jam-packed these past few weeks. This past week/weekend was particularly crazy. On Thursday my team and I had an offsite at Sur La Table in Palo Alto, where we spent the afternoon drinking wine and cooking. Talk about team bonding! We cooked up some nom Thai food and learned a few cool cooking tricks. Did you know a potato peeler peels both up and down?! I didn’t! The time I could’ve been saving by peeling on the way up too (instead of taking the peeler off of the vegetable before peeling down again)!

Lucky us, the fun didn’t stop on Thursday! On Friday, Upwork rented out a theater for everyone to see the new Star Wars movie. We even had shirts made for the occasion. So fun!

Work hard, play hard y’all.

After the movie, Mike and I headed up to San Francisco for a little staycation. My holiday party was in the city on Saturday evening so we decided to get a hotel room up there for the weekend. We took the train (valet parking was $55/night! what!?) and walked the mile or so to the Intercontinental. I love walking, especially through cities where there is so much to see.

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We quickly checked in and headed right back out to meet my friend Debbie for hot pot near Golden Gate Park. We ate a place called Nabe that Debs suggested. Debbie and I went to high school together and I know the girl is good with restaurant recommendations. She always picks yummy places that are healthy. My kind of gal!

Mike and I had never had hot pot before and it didn’t disappoint. As the title suggests,  a “hot pot” that is filled with boiling broth is placed in front of you. Depending on what you order, an array of vegetables and meats are brought out and you cook them in the pot. The broth was delicious (a part of me was like, there has to be MSG in here… mer) and it is a lot of food with all of the sides and the rice they give you. Definitely worth a try!

We kicked off Saturday morning with brunch at Samovar. Mike and I love this place and used to make it to the city once a month just to go there (back when they still had more locations throughout the city). Our good friend Merriem met us and we caught up over chai tea and noshes. So good to see old friends!

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What else but #avotoast

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After brunch we walked to All Birds, a shoe shop that sells slip-ons and lace-ups made of wool. I know it is the holiday season but I was shocked to find a line outside the store. We waited for about 15 minutes before getting to go inside and try on shoes. They are so comfy, we both walked out with a pair and “joined the flock.” 😉

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Next we walked along the Embarcadero and enjoyed the nice weather. Then a quick trip to the Ferry Building for some browsing before getting ready for the holiday soiree.

My holiday party was at The Pearl in the Dogpatch. Holy glamorous! It was Speakeasy themed and the venue/decorations transported me. There was even a “secret” speakeasy you could only access with a pin and once you left, the pin was taken from you and your access revoked. Mike and I enjoyed the evening, drinking cocktails and mingling with everyone.

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On Sunday we took full advantage of late check out and slept in. I wished we capitalized on another day in the city (Saturday was so fun walking around and taking in SF!) but after a night of drinking and dancing, sleep was priority.

This week we’re finishing starting Christmas shopping and packing up to go to Toronto! Happy holidays!

Google highlights

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On cloud 9 at Google HQ

I started working at Google in April 2016 and – almost to the date – a year and a half later, moved to the next opportunity. My short time spent at the Googs was a fun journey and I wanted to document some highlights to look back on one day. Let’s begin!

1. The Nomz

As you might imagine, the free food at Google is a pretty sweet deal. Not only are there  fully stocked MKs (Micro Kitchens) with things carrots and hummus, hard boiled eggs, cheese, yogurts, popcorn, fruit, and nuts accessible all day; there are breakfast, lunch, and dinner options at multiple cafes around campus.

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I almost never had dinner there but was a regular for the breakfast and lunch scene. My all time favorite Google cafe was the vegan one called Slice.  The roasted kale and mac n’ “cheese” was so delicious, you didn’t feel like you were missing out on anything. Plus, a decadent array of dairy-free ice creams and popsicles for dessert. Omg.

Everyday had the potential to be a culinary adventure! (Except most days I ate at the same cafe that was near my building…)

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Breakfast outside at the Google SF office #avo
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A happy (vegetrainian) BBQ plate 🙂
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Taco Tuesday
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Cookies and rock n’ roll
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A mini pumpkin pie last November

2. The Coffee

Google’s coffee game is strong. My favorite coffee there came from a food truck that set up shop at various locations every morning; filling the air with sweet java scents. I loved starting my day with the site of that teal beast, waiting for me to line up and order some black magic (and, of course, avo toast).

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I was also lucky enough to work in the same building as The Coffee Lab, an entire cafe dedicated to – you guessed it – coffee. Most days I would start my morning here with a cold brew and a splash of Califia almond milk (the best!).

There were also the notably great summer months when Coffee Lab had nitro brew on tap. All about it. Every single afternoon. Sometimes twice.

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Velvety nitro brew

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3. The Talks

Talks at Google was one of my favorite things about working at Google. The first talk I went to was to listen to Conrad Anker last June. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some other pretty cool people on my lunch breaks.

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Kathy Griffin!

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Jillian Michaels
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Roxane Gay (not looking particularly thrilled to take a picture with me… ek)
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Some of the cast from Luzia
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The cast of Hamilton

You can enjoy most Google Talks to by checking out their YouTube channel. Which I will be subscribing to so I can keep watching from afar.

4. The Sights (and things to do!)

I didn’t have a typical college experience where I moved away and lived on campus in dorms. I stayed at home to save money. In some ways, working at Google for a year and a half felt a little bit like living on campus. Or, at least being on one every day.

There are always events happening at Google HQ. Aside from the Talks, there were Fall festivals, Google’s 18th birthday celebration, happy hours, Pride festivities and more.

Like…

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Biking around campus
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Lunch break yoga
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Rock climbing
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Bowling
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Swimming
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Or, if you’re tired.. nap time, anyone?
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Legitimately was almost late to a meeting because of this ball pit

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Giant chairs everywhere!

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Android Love.

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5. The Views

Google’s main campus (where I spent most of my time) is gorgeous. It’s all tree-lined and flowers-in-bloom. There seems to be a surplus of butterflies in the area flying around. There are perfectly paved and painted walking and bike paths connecting the seemingly never ending rows of Google buildings. I would often just walk around in awe.

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A trail I used to walk before early morning meetings
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Views from a Google cafe at HQ

Although I spent most of my time in Mountain View, I made it to the SF office a few times and the views don’t disappoint there either!

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Nothing beats a good view, especially when you’re getting paid to see it!

6. The People

I think the hardest thing about leaving a job for another is leaving your friends. I was lucky to work with some really great people who I enjoyed spending time with and seeing on a daily basis. A month into my new job and I think I’m still suffering from a bit of separation anxiety…

At least we all have Facebook to stay in touch!

#jk love ya Google ❤

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Friday Favorites

It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving and I’ve managed to steal some time with a cup of coffee to document a few favorites lately. Read on 🙂

Yoga with friends

After every yoga class I’ve taken, I feel melty and delicious. I don’t think anyone regrets a hour or so on the mat. At least I never do! And what makes yoga even better? Doing it with a friend.

There’s a free yoga class on Sunday mornings near my house and a candlelit one I love to go to on Wednesdays. This past week I’ve had 2 different friends join me for each class and my practice was better. More fun. More love. More light.

Pair it with a cup of coffee before or a glass of wine after and you’ve got yourself the perfect friend date!

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New bedding

One of my favorites things about Mike is his concern for the environment. He hates throwing things away that will end up in landfill. Over the years he has made me a lot more aware of using every last ounce of things before we toss them. Finally, after almost 5 years, it was time to get a new bedspread. We upgraded ourselves to a duvet and sheets that feel like butter. Literally when we get in bed we I say “oooh, like buttah” every time.

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Califa almond milk

I’ll admit I am an almond milk snob. In my opinion, Almond Breeze is way too runny. I think Starbucks uses there own almond milk and I don’t trust it. Peet’s uses Pacific almond milk and it’s good; better that Almond Breeze everyday of the week. BUT it’s simply not Califa. Califa is my jam. Like, they should pay me with how much I promote the weirdly shaped bottled almond milk. It’s so legit. Creamy and flavorful. Carrageenan free. 0g of sugar.

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BOLD, UNSWEETENED, authentic, FEARLESS, delicious. (< okay, they shouldn’t pay me for that one because I took it from the back of their bottle;)

My fiancé! 

Some people say getting engaged feels the same as being BF/GF but I’m here to tell you it’s totally different. It’s 100% better! The moment that pretty little ring slid on my finger, something shifted. It could just be engagement bliss but I think it’s deeper than that. My mind is like, this is my man! For life. I’m not naive enough to think we won’t ever argue again but somehow the little things that used to cause a few rifts don’t matter anymore. It feels like all we want to do is soak each other in.

I look at Mike and think he’s magic.

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And he’s mine!

Best day ever

Last Saturday was arguably the best day of my life so far! After a long first week at my new job (yay!), I was more than ready for a weekend away with Mike. He had perviously planned to take me to San Luis Obispo for my birthday and – the one thing I requested? – I didn’t want to make a single plan for the weekend.

Mike not only planned the funnest weekend with my favorite things (clearly should request his planning more often!) but surprised me with the best question I’ve ever been asked (spoiler #1). 😉

We drove down on Friday night and got settled into our comically small cozy airbnb. We turned in early in anticipation of a full day ahead. On Saturday, we woke up earlier than expected and had a few hours to kill before our brunch reservations. Of course my first thought was, COFFEE! Mike Googled coffee shops and found a gem called Ascendo. It was a gloomy morning and I enjoyed a cafe au late with homemade almond milk before heading to our favorite place in SLO for brunch; Luna Red.

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We enjoyed mimosas and spilt an order of eggs Benedict and an egg sando. I mention this all of the time on the blog but I absolutely love that Mike is, more often than not, willingly to spilt two dishes with me so we can sample more.

Lucky me that I get to spend the rest of my life with him (spoiler #2)!

Our next item on the agenda wasn’t until later in the afternoon so we decided to go check out the landmark Madonna Inn. Two words; Holy pink.

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This place is insane. Pink and roses are the theme and… I really don’t know what else to say about it… Aside from the fact that I made Mike go into the iconic men’s restroom and take a picture of the waterfall urinal. Happy wife, happy life (spoiler #3, kind of….).

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Apparently the waterfall starts as you walk up to it and …start your own stream

After experiencing enough pink for a lifetime, we made an impromptu trip to the beach. In classic Ashley form, I was craving kombucha.

Booch on the beach, what’s better?!

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We strolled in the sand, sharing sips of fermented tea, before finding a swing set ON THE BEACH. Best idea ever.

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Then it was a romantic trip to the Sycamore Mineral Springs. Now, if you know me and Mike, you know we love to hot tub. At this point, I remember thinking how great the day was so far. Little did I know how much better it was going to get…

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After the hot tub, we were getting a bit hungry but Mike had something else planned that closed within the hour. We were debating nixing his original plan and grabbing a glass of wine and tacos instead but, when he told me what was planned next, I immediately opted for a quick snack to stick with the plan.

After all, WE WERE GOING APPLE PICKING!

Pretty much every fall I tell Mike how much I want to go apple picking but it just hasn’t panned out. So, you can imagine my excitement when Mike told me we were finally going. I was downright giddy. Also, bonus points that the orchard was an organic one.

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We arrived about a hour before closing. It was drizzling out. I was already euphoric. The lady working there advised us to go deep into the orchard for the best apples. This worked out perfectly for Mike’s plan.

I was seriously so excited to be there picking apples with Mike I could barely handle it. I was taking millions of pictures in between picking the tiniest apples I could find. I don’t know what it is but, baby apples just taste better! Mike kept joking that I wasn’t letting the apples “grow to their full potential” by picking them when they were so small and all I kept saying was I didn’t care! I think they taste better small.

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After about 20 minutes rummaging through the trees to find the best apples, Mike pointed out one with a plethora of BABY apples. I immediately walked up to it and started ranting about how great tiny apples were. I was picking them like a mad women. One-two-three in my palms, ready to go for more when I heard Mike.

“Ashley?”

Shit, I thought, he’s going to be mad that I keep picking these baby apples instead of leaving them to grow to their full potential.

I turned around with a guilty look on my face ONLY TO FIND MIKE DOWN ON ONE KNEE.

Omg, I will remember that image for the rest of my life. It was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. I instantly started to cry. He asked me to marry him. I told him to stand up. I hugged him. I cried more. He asked again. I sobbed, “yes, yes!”

He put my gorgeous ring on that special finger. I cried some more. And all of the sudden I was done apple picking. I was overcome with all of the emotions. I could barely believe Mike had just PROPOSED in the most Fall-style, Ashley-inspired way.

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That it was!
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After the ring and the tears, Mike told me wine tasting was next and I was like, HELL YES LET’S GO! I don’t think my smile faded for the next hour.

We paid for our apples and went to Edna Valley Winery for wine and cheese and smiles and shamelessly telling everyone we just got engaged (and yes, we got our tastings comped;).

We bought 2 bottles to enjoy with family and then it was time for dinner!

I barely remember what I ate or what we talked about. All I remember is thinking, I can’t believe I get to marry this guy! Our day was full of all things we love and, like I mentioned, included the best question I’ve ever been asked.

It’s been such a fun week telling our families and friends that we’re ENGAGED!

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Of course, I’ve also loved showing off my ring that was designed and made by our gorgeous and talented friend Altana Marie. The ring is perfect and 100% me.

I knew I didn’t want something as traditional as a diamond ring. This is personal preference but I really hate what a status representation engagement rings are. I knew years ago that I didn’t want to subscribe to the notion that my engagement ring should be “3 months pay” or some other marketing scheme like that.

Despite thinking insanely pricey engagements rings are a waste of money, I do love the symbol of them. It’s said that the Greeks decided on what we now know as our “ring finger” because, allegedly, there is a vein that goes from that finger straight to our hearts.

I MEAN, HOW ROMANTIC IS THAT!?

Logistically, I wear black almost everyday so felt a black diamond was more fitting for me personally. Plus, as mentioned, it isn’t as traditional; which Mike and I are always fans of.

We don’t have any idea about wedding plans (so don’t ask about dates;) but we’re excited for this next step in our relationship. It sounds so corny but I feel like our love and relationship has deepened and intensified  just in this past week alone.

On that note, cheers to our future!

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xoxo #blackisthenewblack

 

Vegan roasted red bell pepper sauce

YOU GUYS. This recipe is a winner. With one of my closet friends as my inspo (read about her wedding we just went to here), I whipped up this vegan roasted red bell pepper sauce to serve over spaghetti squash tonight and it’s so creamy, you wouldn’t even know there isn’t cheese in it.

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I’ll admit, there’s a bit of prep work (more than I usually do on a Monday) with roasting the bell peppers. And I made my own cashew milk, which obviously added time. You can prep the cashew milk the night before to save a few minutes but I do highly recommend making your own nut milk for this one; since it’s a savory dish.

I know you can buy unsweetened nut milk but it just always has a hint of sweet in my opinion. Besides, if you can avoid added ingredients, why not? Making your own nut milk is actually super simple. The only pitfall is it doesn’t keep for too long (no preservatives!) but I’ll give you the exact amounts I used for this recipe below.

That means, this post is actually two recipes in one! Your lucky day, friends.

As mentioned, I put this sauce over spaghetti squash (that I did prep the day before) but you can dip bread and veggies in it or use it as a sub for a more creamy pizza sauce.


Vegan roasted red bell pepper sauce

Prep time:  45 minutes – Cook time: 5 minutes – Servings: 2 – 3

Ingredients:

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 2 – 4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 – 2 Tbs of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup cashew milk*
  • 2 Tbs of nutritional yeast
  • A few dashes of red chili flakes (optional)
  • Basil for garnish

Directions:

  • Roast bell peppers in a 450 degree toaster oven for 30 minutes or until skin is charred
  • Tent bell peppers in tin foil to steam for 10 minutes and then remove skin and seeds
  • Sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil
  • Add peppers, sautéd shallots and garlic, cashew milk, nutritional yeast, and red chili flakes to blender and blend until smooth
  • Garnish and serve 🙂

 

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Roast
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Peel
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Blend
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Pour

*For the cashew milk:

  • Simply soak 1/2 cup unsalted cashews in water for ~8 hours (I soaked mine while I was at work today)
  • Drain cashews and add to blender with 1/2 cup of water
  • Blend and strain in a nut milk bag

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A Washington Wedding

This girl loves a good wedding and this weekend Mike and I attended one that will go down in the books.

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We flew to rainy Washington to celebrate our good friends Morgan and Joe getting hitched. Arriving early (ish) Friday evening and piling on layers to adjust to the low temps, we checked into The Hyatt in Bellevue with just a few minutes to get ready before the welcome party. A French braid and leaving the hotel with wet nails it was!

We met up with other friends who had also flown in from the Bay Area for a quick drink in the hotel lobby and then headed to Wild Ginger to see the soon to be Mr. & Mrs.

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Unbeknownst to us, the restaurant had recently moved locations. We walked right past the new location on our way to the old location, which sucks when it’s cold out and you’re in heels! But we made it there eventually, joking that we all deserved another drink from our added steps.

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With the Bride & Groom!

With the wine flowing and plenty of “hellos” to go around, the night was a great start to a wedding weekend! You might say it was a little too much fun, leaving both me and Mike severely hung over for most of the next morning. Ek. (In retrospect, we realized we just didn’t eat enough the night before, distracted by the good time we were having.)

After finally rolling out of bed around 1pm on Saturday, we walked to Earls for lunch; again bundled up for the cold stroll. It was sprinkling outside and, truth be told, I was happy for a quintessential Washington afternoon. I, of course, ordered the avo toast (any time it’s on the menu, #mine) and Mike got a NOM rice bowl (that I ended up eating half of). After lunch we walked in the rain to get tea at a cute cafe nearby and rid the rest of our hangovers! It was an uneventful afternoon but fun nonetheless.

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Then it was time to get wedding ready! Glam’d up and ready to celebrate Morgan and Joe, the group of us all staying at The Hyatt piled into a Lyft and headed to the venue. By this point, the weather had graduated from a light sprinkle to full blown rain. Washington decided to really show off for all of us out of staters. 😉

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The first person I saw when we entered the venue was the bride! Morgan was gorgeous and chic, standing there in a floor length black dress with a glass of sparkling in her hand. It was great to see her before the wedding and was a refreshing twist on tradition.

After everyone had time to mingle for a bit, Joe parted the crowd to make an aisle for Morgan to walk down. Again, another refreshing, no fuss take on standard wedding practice. Minutes later, Morgan was walking down the aisle – lined with love – in a white, lacy dress that swooped down in the back. She walked to the Imperial March which 1. is 100% Morgan and Joe and 2. (proud of myself for this one) I knew was Star Wars related without anyone telling me.

Morgan and Joe’s vows were personal, not too long, and cavity-causing sweet. The perfect combination! They had their husky by their feet while saying “I do,” and their respective best friends officiating. It was such a special moment to witness. I think everyone there felt honored to be experiencing it with them.

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Next up? Dinner! The menu included a salad and bread to start, vegetarian meatloaf (a paradox), roasted potatoes, an array of vegetables, and pumpkin ravioli. So delicious, and no meat! Love that.

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There was a macaron bar was for dessert and then it was time to dance, snap selfies, and toast to many years of love, laughs, and happiness for Morgan and Joe! My favorite PNW couple.

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Mike and Ben, at it again!

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