3 Things I Learned from Summer Camp

This past weekend, I had the chance to go to a wellness summer camp in Michigan with my friend Sammy (@shapedupsam). When Sammy invited me to go, I was nervous. Nervous to be around other people who I didn’t know, nervous to eat food that I didn’t make for myself, nervous that no one would like me and that I wouldn’t fit in, but also nervous about the experience as a whole. If you follow me on Instagram then you’ve probably seen me post about being an introvert and someone who recharges alone—and this is so true. I don’t do well being on my A-game all the time, and I certainly don’t thrive talking to people all day long…my energy just dwindles. While the summer camp in itself sounded right up my alley—trail runs, smoothie bowls, and HIIT workouts—it was still something that I was unsure of attending.

After talking it over with a few people, I decided I would branch out of my comfort zone and go to Fit Approach’s EMPOWER Summer Camp. The camp was held at Ronora Lodge and Retreat Center in Watervliet, Michigan. The grounds were nestled between a small forest with a lake hidden in the back. Several cabins lined the perimeter and there was a large dining hall with a bonfire in the center.

Sammy and I were cabin-mates…along with 12 other ladies. Major YIKES. I love my space, and sharing a bedroom with nine other girls and only two bathrooms amongst 12 women was nerve-racking. You may be thinking, “Amanda, you are overreacting,” but I can assure you I’m not. I’m so used to sleeping in an environment that is private, dark, and quiet. I’m also someone who can’t fall asleep with any noise…okay, this post is starting to sound like one big complaining fest, but I’m trying to set the scene here OKAY?

After getting settled into our cabin, Sammy and I ventured outside where we were greeted by friendly faces of women who were dressed in workout gear. Our first activity was a trail run to shakeout after a day of traveling (lucky for us, the campgrounds were only three hours from where we live!). I ended up leading the pack with the camp founder/leader, Jamie, and we chatted while running up and down hills and through trees. It was a great way to start off camp, to say the very least. Afterwards, we were served a delicious dinner made from ingredients from the camp’s garden—think homemade guac, freshly picked lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes, and vegan date dessert balls.

thing I learned no.1: if you don’t just “go for it,” you’ll really miss out on new experiences

Even though this was only the first few hours, I already knew I had made the right decision going to this camp, and I knew I probably would never have an opportunity like this again. We were already doing things (like trail running) and eating things (fresh vegetables and fruits) that aligned with my values, that I knew I made the right decision by pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

We finished off the night with sunset yoga and a campfire circle, where myself along with the other ladies created silly dances and cheers to ring in the first night of camp. And after the festivities were over, I realized my second thing I learned from summer camp:

thing I learned No. 2. you can make friends with anyone if you push yourself out of your comfort zone

I had always thought that most bloggers/influencers weren’t their true selves on social media. But these ladies were all welcoming and friendly and made me feel right at home! We talked about running, yoga, and veganism and while I’m not someone who likes talking a lot, I found that pushing myself to start conversations really allowed me to feel more comfortable with everyone else who attended camp.

While I didn’t sleep very well the first night, I woke up the next morning excited for what we had planned for the day: another trail run, a HIIT workout, a smoothie bowl bar, power yoga/pilates, and then sunset yoga later in the evening. The morning trail run was so much fun and was sponsored by Aftershokz. I have never heard of these wireless headphones before but now I’m OBSESSED. Instead of putting the headphones in your ear, you actually wear them above your ear. This style is perfect for running outside because you’re still able to listen to music, podcasts, and take phone calls while still being able to hear what’s happening in your surroundings—they’re truly a game changer (get $50 off a pair for yourself by using the code EMPOWER).

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After our morning run, we braved the heat and did a HITT workout taught by Kasey Brown (AKA @powercakes on Instagram) that was sponsored by Now Foods. I was already a bit tired from our morning run, but I was excited to sweat it out and do a HIIT workout. The workout consisted of partner and individual exercises like jump squats, burpees, and a variety of planks. Even though some of the women were pushing it to the limit, I listened to my body and only did the workouts that felt good—I didn’t do burpees, instead, I did squats.

thing I learned no.3. just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean that I have to. listening to my body is so much more important!

Normally, I max out when doing group workouts because I feel as though I have something to prove. But this time around, I was able to listen to my body and do the exercises that felt GOOD. After our HIIT workout, we went inside to the dining hall to decorate our own smoothie bowls that were created by Annmarie (AKA @fitfoodiemama on Instagram) and powered by Now Foods’ protein and supplement powders. The bowl that I chose was a vegan smoothie made with frozen berries and Now Foods’ beet root powder and pea protein powder. In my opinion, the best part of smoothie bowls are the toppings. I loaded the top of my smoothie bowl with cacao nibs, strawberries, blueberries, and shredded coconut—it was the perfect post-workout snack.

After our two workouts we had time to relax by the lake before our, yes it’s true, third and fourth workouts of the day. The lake was gorgeous and I sat and enjoyed the company of Sammy and some of the other girls. A few hours later, we departed back to the dining hall to do an indoor “HIIT and Flow” workout created by the @flexandflow team. Think of “HIIT and Flow” as a power yoga workout that includes sliders to really engage your core and arm muscles.

As someone who has been doing yoga and working out for a long time, this third workout of the day really made me sore—I was walking funny and had to roll out the following few days. Afterwards, we were treated to a happy hour sponsored by Jade Leaf Matcha where we had the chance to try their new vegan matcha fruit bites. They were super tasty and helped me feel energized after a long day of workouts.

As the day came to an end, I realized that this weekend had been full of learning experiences: I went out of my comfort zone to a place where I only knew one person, I tried new foods and ventured out of my “safe” meals, I challenged myself to talk with the other ladies there (because I normally would have only talked to the person I came with), and I managed my emotions especially when I was in no control of the weekend. Fit Approach’s EMPOWER Summer Camp taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to, and just because I might be nervous about doing something, does not mean that I shouldn’t just go for it and try it.

Thank you Fit Approach for such a fantastic weekend!

Photographs courtesy of James Pancoast, @jamespancoastphotos

Texas Vegan Guide

Yeehaw! It might come as a shock (it certainly was to me) that Texas has an abundance of HEALTHY VEGAN food in the state that is known for BBQ and Tex-Mex. However, after visiting a few times I was thrilled to find that Texas not only has a lot of solely vegan eateries, but also restaurants that have both vegan and non-vegan options. Since my boyfriend (who lives in Texas) isn’t a vegan—or a vegetarian—it was important to me that there were places to eat at that he would enjoy along with myself. Thankfully, there were a lot of places to choose from that didn’t just offer “vegan junk food,” but actually had delicious and healthy dishes.

hg suply co, fort worth

HG SUPLY CO is hands-down my favorite restaurant to dine at in the Dallas/Forth Worth area. For starters, the location of this fine, fine, fine establishment is right along the Clear Fork Trinity River allowing for the best views and most serene atmosphere. HG SUPLY CO has a gorgeous back patio with string lights and wooden picnic-style tables with umbrellas that allow for an unforgettable outdoor dining experience—and no, I’m not being dramatic. While HG SUPLY hit the nail on the head with ambience, their food offerings are also delicious.

I think I’ve tried almost every vegan option that’s on the menu. Starting with appetizers, their vegan queso is delicious. While it’s not necessarily a health food, we subbed half of the tortilla chips for fresh vegetables to make the dish a bit more nutritious. And if you’re a vegan, I’m sure you’ve been disappointed by fake cheeses a plethora of times (I know I’ve been), but HG does fake cheese RIGHT. Their queso is creamy, tasty, and doesn’t leave you with an unbearable stomachache afterwards.

HG CHIPS & QUESO (Sub 1/2 Tortilla Chips for Vegetables): 10/10

The next appetizer that it’s amazing—and that I’ve actually ordered as my entree—is their carrot hummus (which has been recently updated on the menu to a ginger garlic hummus). Surrounded by fresh vegetables like purple cauliflower, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, and carrots, the hummus is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with crushed toasted almonds. I always ordered the hummus without the extra olive oil drizzle, and let me tell ya, it’s still super creamy and tasty. Unlike other restaurants that offer hummus, HG’s dish is homemade and doesn’t taste like paste. Instead, it’s flavorful, spicy, and the perfect appetizer or entree for anyone who is a big hummus fan, such as myself.

HUMMUS & FRESH VEGETABLES (No olive oil drizzle): 10/10

The next dish that I’ve tried at HG SUPLY CO is their quinoa “meatballs.” I’ve had this vegan dish as a side to complement the hummus, and I’ve also had them on top of the restaurant’s zucchini "pasta.” Made from quinoa and other nuts and spices, these vegan “meatballs” are so tasty and make the perfect vegan protein addition to any of the plant-based offerings that HG has!

QUINOA “MEATBALLS”: 10/10

The zucchini “pasta” was recently added to the HG SUPLY CO menu as of the last time I was in Texas. I’m a creature of habit, and normally I would have ordered the hummus with the quinoa meatballs out of uncertainty. However, I decided to give the zucchini “pasta” a try. On top of the bed of spiralized zucchini was blistered grape tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, rainbow chard, onions, and sweet peppers—a delectable combination. To be honest, this dish was one of the best I have ever tasted and was full of delicious and nutritious vegan-approved ingredients. For those of you who are pasta lovers, this dish won’t disappoint! It truly tasted like the real deal.

ZUCCHINI “PASTA”: 10/10


oh my juice, waco

Our pitstop at Oh My Juice in Waco was much needed as we were en route to Austin. On a hot day sitting in the car for several hours, there’s nothing more refreshing than a smoothie or a smoothie bowl. The location itself is a bit odd, as it’s housed with other small eateries and boutiques in a rest stop kind of atmosphere. However, unlike other rest areas, Oh My Juice is 100x better than any McDonalds or other fast food joint that you would normally run into along the highway.

The first time that we went there, my boyfriend ordered the Orange Ya Glad “Muscle” smoothie, which of course, I had to try. Oranges, bananas, cinnamon, vegan vanilla protein powder, and coconut milk are blended to create a thick, creamy, protein-packed smoothie. This menu offering is great if you’re looking for a meal replacement, rather than a snack as it’s full of 20 grams of plant protein!

ORANGE YA GLAD SMOOTHIE: 10/10

I have tried two different items at Oh My Juice. The first was the Green Morning smoothie that consisted of cucumber, pear, spinach, avocado, dates, lime, coconut water and vegan protein powder, which I subbed for goji berries. While this smoothie was not as sweet as the Orange Ya Glad shake, it was super delicious and immediately reenergized me.

GREEN MORNING SMOOTHIE: 8/10

The second time we stopped at Oh My Juice, I decided to give one of their smoothie bowls a try. For the base of the bowl I ordered the Under The Sea smoothie which was a blend of pineapple, grapes, blue majik (spirulina), and coconut water. For toppings, I chose fresh strawberries, raspberries, and goji berries. While the consistency of the bowl wasn’t as thick as I normally like, there’s just something so satisfying about eating a smoothie with a spoon—I think it’s because it makes the deliciousness last longer!

UNDER THE SEA SMOOTHIE BOWL: 9/10


mudhen meat & greens, dallas

When we visited downtown Dallas, we were in search of a restaurant that had both vegan and non-vegan options. To be quite honest, I’m not sure how exactly we stumbled upon Mudhen Meat & Greens, but I’m so glad that we did. Near the Dallas Farmer’s Market, Mudhen Meat & Greens resembles a large (very well decorated and aesthetically pleasing) warehouse. Inside, there are long wooden tables topped with glass bottles of water and flowers, and there are wooden benches for seating. The building itself is gorgeous and it was the first thing (besides the menu) that really caught my attention.

Since we went on a Sunday, Mudhen unfortunately was only serving their brunch items. There were a lot more vegan offerings on their normal lunch/dinner menu, however, I still made it work. I ended up ordering their vegan Collard Spring Roll. Carrots, avocado, cabbage, and kelp noodles were stuffed inside of hearty pieces of collard and complemented by a sriracha vinaigrette. I’ve tasted plenty of vegan spring rolls/raw burritos during my time as a vegan, and these were hands down the best I have ever had!

COLLARD SPRING ROLLS: 10/10

Along with the spring rolls, we also ordered some of the restaurant’s kombucha on tap. While I’m a GT’s Kombucha fan girl through and through, I always love tasting local kombucha. The flavor that we ordered was floral (I don’t remember the exact flavor) with a hint of fruit. It was quite sweet and not carbonated enough for my liking, however, it was super refreshing and made for the perfect addition to my spring rolls!

KOMBUCHA ON TAP: 8/10

The next time that we go to Mudhen, I’m for sure going to try some of their other vegan options like their vegan Mushroom Bolognese Pasta (roasted tomato sauce with cremini mushrooms, quinoa, kelp noodles, and macadamia nut ricotta).


5 points local, san antonio

Out of all of the restaurants in Texas, 5 Point Local has to be my absolute favorite. Weirdly located in a neighborhood on the outskirts of downtown San Antonio, 5 Points Local truly is a hidden gem. We ate at this restaurant three times during our 2 day stay in San Antonio, and it was delicious every time. The first day, I ordered the vegan Baked Bowl which essential was a baked oatmeal made of warm grains and spices, dried fruit and nuts, topped with cashew cream and a grilled banana. Yes, it was just as delicious as it sounds. It was the perfect warming dish for an early dinner, and was super satisfying and kept me full for hours!

BAKED BOWL: 10/10

The next day, I ended up eating at 5 Points twice because the 5 Points Granola bowl was crazy good—yes, I had the same thing twice in the same day. The 5 Points Granola bowl is their homemade granola made from grains, dried fruit, coconut, and nuts and finished off with homemade coconut milk. On the side, I ordered both their fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and fresh squeezed orange juice. The granola bowl was so delicious and surprisingly filling that I knew I had to celebrate our last day in San Antonio by ordering it twice—it didn’t disappoint.

5 POINTS GRANOLA BOWL: 10/10


flower child, austin

To be quite honest, there wasn’t many places in Austin that appealed to me (perhaps I wasn’t looking at the right places, but there just wasn’t much I found—let me know in the comments below what your favorite vegan restaurants are in Austin!). However, I had heard so many great things about Flower Child from the bloggers that I follow who live in California. When I found out that there were locations in Texas, I knew I had to go. If you’re from Chicago, then you probably know of/have been to True Food Kitchen. The interior of Flower Child is very similar to True Food’s: open, airy, minimalistic, and full of hanging and standing plants. The concept, however, is different from True Food. At Flower Child, you order at the counter and then sit down and wait for your food to arrive—I got major Panera vibes.

Since we were only in Austin for a day, choosing what to order was difficult because I wanted to try all of the vegan offerings! After much deliberation, I decided on the Vegan Ingredient Salad with the lemon tahini vinaigrette on the side. This salad had a base of delicious greens and was topped with cauliflower, avocado, roasted corn, baby tomatoes, kalamata olives, and sunflower seeds. This salad may sound simple and boring, but the dressing really elevated the dish. My goal? An attempt to recreate the delicious tahini dressing!

VEGAN INGREDIENT SALAD: 10/10


Have you ever been to Texas? If so, what are you favorite vegan places to eat at? I’m looking for any and all recommendations!

California Vegan Guide

I hopped off the plane at LAX, with a dream of all of the delicious vegan food. No really—this happened. Two weeks ago, I traveled to SoCal for a business trip, but naturally had to check out all of the vegan hotspots while I was there. Normally, traveling with non-vegans is hard because (of course) they want to try all of the non-vegan restaurants out. However, I was lucky enough to be traveling with a co-worker/friend of mine who appreciated a good plant-based menu. You can bet your bottom dollar that I had been trolling all of the Instagram influencers to find which trendy vegan spots to put on my hit list. And while we weren’t able to visit all of them, we ended up going to quite a few that I think are worthy of an Instagram post. So here we are. Hope you enjoy (and don’t get too hungry, haha!).


cafe gratitude, newport beach

I had heard about Cafe Gratitude from so many different people on so many different Instagram accounts. When I posted on my Instagram story (shameless plug, go follow me here!) asking for recommendations, the number one restaurant that people told me to try was Cafe Gratitude—and boy, it didn’t disappoint!

For starters, the interior was gorgeous. I’m not sure if all of their locations are as pretty as this one, but the one in Newport Beach was totally Instagram worthy. The tables were white and marbled, and there were succulent plants everywhere. Clearly, the folks behind Cafe Gratitude wanted anyone and everyone to want to take photos and post them on Instagram.

The food, however, stole the show. Forget Instagram aesthetics for a moment, and let’s talk about variety and flavor. While Cafe Gratitude isn’t a solely vegan eatery, they did have plenty of vegan options to choose from. I ended up dining on the “Powerful” Superfood Granola bowl which consisted of homemade coconut yogurt topped with fresh quinoa granola and Incan and mixed berries. The yogurt in this bowl was hands-down the best I have ever tried.

Of course, I couldn’t not get one of their delicious-sounding lattes. To make things even better, all of the dairy-free milks were made from scratch daily. I decided to go simple and order a decaf latte with homemade almond milk—it was wonderful.

 
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coffee dose, costa mesa

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I’m a huge @shutthekaleup fan. Jeanette (the founder of @shutthekaleup) had posted about Coffee Dose several times, and the humorous—and sometimes vulgar—lattes caught my attention. And while I love a witty latte, I don’t enjoy spending money on food/drinks that only look good, not taste good. However, I knew that if Jeanette was recommending Coffee Dose, then it must be good.

My co-worker and I made our way to Costa Mesa, and as soon as we walked into the cafe we already knew that it was a place made for Instagram photos. From the neon signs and artsy back patio with a wall painting that read “SIT DOWN, BE HUMBLE” (Kendrick Lamar fans, where you at?) to the abundance of plants all around the interior, it was clear that I needed to whip out my iPhone camera to snap quality Instagram content. As dumb as it sounds, the place had so many photo opportunities that I couldn’t pass up.

As for my order, I got the “Goldie.” This drink was a concoction of organic turmeric, cinnamon, vanilla, oat milk, and espresso. Trust me when I say there’s nothing better than a good turmeric latte, especially one that’s not too spicy! I would definitely recommend Coffee Dose if you want tasty coffee drinks accompanied by Instagram-worthy decor.


vibe organic kitchen & juice, newport beach

We honestly stumbled upon Vibe in lieu of being in a rush to get to the business conference we were attending that day. Thank goodness for Yelp, because I don’t think we would have found this place otherwise! Tucked into a strip mall in Newport Beach was this lovely and delicious juice bar. Since we were in a hurry, we decided to grab smoothies to fuel the rest of our afternoon. While the interior isn’t as flashy as Cafe Gratitude or Coffee Dose, it was the perfect spot to stop to grab something quick, nourishing, and tasty.

I always go for green smoothies whenever I have a smoothie. Why, you ask. Well, I love getting my greens in even if I know I don’t have time to chow down a whole salad or a plate of veggies. This delicious drink, dubbed the “Green Junkie", was a blend of kale, spinach, celery, banana, pineapple, and spirulina. I decided to sub the vegan protein powder for raw hemp seeds, because I didn’t want the protein powder to overthrow the flavor of the smoothie. Overall, it was a super tasty way to pack in all of the goods needed to fuel the rest of our busy day!

 
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great white, venice

My coworker had been hyping up Great White at least a week before our trip. After she had initially told me about it, of course I did what any other social media savvy person would do, I looked them up on Instagram. On their feed was a variety of colorful and delicious looking food. If you know me, you know that what struck my eye on their feed was the bright blue smoothie bowl. Before even stepping foot into Great White’s walls, I already knew that I was going to dine on.

The restaurant itself is housed on prime real-estate: a block away from Venice Beach, across the street from the hanging (and very photo op. worthy) Venice sign, and the hotspot itself has indoor-outdoor seating that’s perfect for California’s warm temperatures. Since it was cooler outside, we decided to sit inside but since the walls were completely open it felt as if we were sitting on the patio with the rest of the diners and their dogs.

As I mentioned above, I already knew what I wanted to eat. Behold, the Blue Smoothie Bowl. A beautiful blend of banana, pineapple, passion fruit, e3 live, and chia seeds topped with homemade granola, fresh berries, and an edible flower. If this bowl doesn’t scream “California Girl,” I don’t know what does!


erewhon market, venice

If you follow ANYONE on Instagram who lives in California, then chances are you’ve heard of Erewhon Market. If you haven’t heard of Erewhon, then just imagine a glorified Whole Foods with more vegan options, more exotic pre-made foods, and a heck of a lot more expensive—seriously, Erewhon makes “Whole Paycheck” look like a joke.

Anyways, we went to Erewhon twice during our three-day stay in California. Both times, I tried something new. The first night I decided to try their raw burrito which consisted of a zucchini, apple, flax, coconut, and turmeric raw wrap filled with “taco meat” (AKA sunflower seeds, walnuts, and spices), romaine lettuce, mangos, cashew cheese, tomatoes, and salsa. This wrap was hands-down one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten…and 100% vegan!

The second time we went to Erewhon, I decided to fill my bowl with ingredients from their salad bar, as I was taking it to-go with me on our flight back to Chicago. I added kelp noodles, roasted veggies, cabbage, micro greens, organic romaine, and a little bit of quinoa to create a tasty salad. To top it off, I drizzled the bowl with liquid aminos and oil-free balsamic.

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kreation, los angeles

Kreation has to be one of the fanciest smoothie/juice bars I have ever stepped foot in. Forget what you know about smoothies (yes, I’m talking about your oh-so-basic strawberry banana smoothie), because Kreation has some fancy blends.

We stopped by Kreation in Los Angeles immediately after our 4-hour flight. Since our flight left Chicago at around 6am, we had not eaten anything all day, so it’s safe to say we were famished. Truthfully, I was a little underwhelmed by this Kreation location, as everything was already prepackaged—they were not making smoothies on location. However, I was hungry and needed some good nourishment and hydration, so I decided to grab the Warrior bottled smoothie.

Inside this purple blend was banana, pineapple, beets, cucumbers, spinach, basil, orange, grapefruit, blueberry, turmeric, acaí powder, camu camu, flax seeds, and pomegranate powder. It was delicious, filling, and really hit the spot. Would I recommend Kreation? Probably not this location, as I would have liked to visit one of their actual cafes. With that being said, for a quick on-the-go smoothie, I definitely think that Kreation is a good option that suits all dietary needs.


Have you ever been to California before? If so, what are your favorite places to eat? How about your favorite things to do? Let me know in the comments below so I can add them to my hit list the next time I’m in the West Coast!