Stephanie Quilao

Eating Out: Chipotle Plant-based Burrito Bowls

My go-to fast food joint is Chipotle mainly because they went GMO-free and they use some of the freshest, high-quality ingredients in fast food. When you’re transitioning to eating more plant-based, Chipotle is a great place to eat fast because tacos and burritos. Plus, there are Chipotle places like everywhere.

I usually get a burrito bowl at Chipotle because when I found out that the tortilla alone is 300 calories and 10g of fat that truly made me gasp. I like the tortilla but don’t need it that much.  Also, without the tortilla, your meal is now gluten-free as well.

My favorite bowl is a simple veggie bowl because the price includes guacamole, it’s not extra. I get brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, roasted chili corn salsa, tomatillo green chili medium salsa, and the guacamole.

I get more of the tomato salsa on the side, and sometimes I ask for extra beans for more protein. The pinto beans at Chipotle are now vegan which is awesome!

When I’m in a spicy mood, I get the Sofritas bowl. The Sofritas does have some kick to it so if you don’t like hot or spicy at all, stick with the veggie bowl. I get guacamole extra because it does help temper the Sofritas spice a bit.

The Sofritas is made exclusively for Chipotle by a local Bay Area company called Hodo Soy. Not only is their soy organic, it is grown in the U.S. which is quite a big deal so I applaud Chipotle for that.

Basically, my Sofritas order is similar – sofritas, brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, roasted chili corn salsa, and guacamole.

Enjoy a delicious plant-based burrito bowl at Chipotle!

Meal: Fajita Plant-based Chicken With Red Quinoa and Almond Green Beans

Doesn’t that look like real chicken? You are not missing out eating clean proteins. For plant-based meat, Beyond Chicken Grilled Strips are pretty close to the animal version.

This meal is easy to make. Get one of your favorite fajita mixes. I like using the Frontera Skillet Fajita Mix because it’s a ready to go sauce in a pouch.

On medium heat in a skillet, heat some olive oil and saute some Fajita-style chopped green onion, red bell pepper, and red onion until soft. Toss the Beyond chicken in the skillet with some of the Fajita mix and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to make sure all the ingredients are well coated and cooked.

Beyond Chicken is already ready-to-eat, so the cooking is more for the sauce and other ingredients to integrate with each other.

The cooked red quinoa just has some chopped apple and walnuts tossed into it. I like the bit of sweet from the apples to complement the fajita flavor.

For the green beans, simply boil some beans for 3 minutes just to soften them yet keep them crunchy. Then saute some chopped onions in a little olive oil until soft. Toss in the cooked green beans, some slivered almonds, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the pan for about a minute just to mix everything well together.


Video: Demystifying Produce at an Asian Market

I love shopping at Asian markets because you can find so many cool different kinds of vegetables, starches, and fruits. But even for me being Filipino, I can find Asian markets intimidating or confusing because there is SO much selection there. I find it mind boggling how many varieties of bok choy there are which is awesome because bok choy is one of my favorite greens.

As another example, have you heard of Banana blossom? There is something inside the plant that is like hunting for Saffron. The leaves are also wonderful for use in salads.

This is a really good video with Chef Mike of Green Vegetarian Cuisine taking us on a tour of an Asian market where the owner of the market describes many of the fresh foods you’ll see and what kind of dishes each is traditionally used in or can be used in. For example, she’s made empanadas using Ube, a purple yam used in traditional Filipino dishes. Now I want to make Ube dessert empanadas.

One of my favorite points that Vanessa, the co-owner, makes is that Asian cuisine is loaded with greens for health because taking pills for health issues is not a big thing in Asia. So true! Better to eat from the Farmacy to prevent the need for visits to the Pharmacy for food related health issues.

So, load up on the greens because it’s better for your health and the planet!

Video: Paul Hawken of Project Drawdown Speaks at UC Berkeley On Food and Climate

If you haven’t heard of Project Drawdown, you must go check it out because it is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. A diverse group of researchers from around the world came together to identify, research, and model the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change.

Paul Hawken was the leader of Project Drawdown and he was a guest speaker at the March 7 session of the Edible Education 101 class at UC Berkeley to talk about Food and Climate. Jump in at the 12:45 minute mark for Paul’s intro.

Of particular interest here at The Flexi 21 is that in the Project Drawdown list the #4 out of 100 most impactful things we all can do to help stop climate change is to eat a plant-rich diet. From their summary:

“If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

According to a 2016 study, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs.”

It’s pretty amazing to see just how much the Western meat-centric diet impacts climate change. Also of interest included in the Drawdown plant-rich diet summary:

  • $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity would be saved.
  • Ending price-distorting government subsidies benefiting the U.S. livestock industry would more accurately reflect the true cost and prices of animal protein.

If you want to geek out, Project Drawdown also includes a technical summary of how they came to their conclusions.

The biggest thing I agreed with Paul in his talk was that the reason he thinks there isn’t more traction and momentum around climate change from consumers is that the overall messages used in the climate change narrative utilizes negative language, and imagery that most people cannot comprehend.

Exactly. The climate change story is centered around too much geekery. The talk is mostly about the gases  Carbon, Methane, and Nitrogen Oxide which you cannot see and starts sounding more like we’re back in science class.

Also using the 2 degrees Celsius danger marker works mostly on people who fear future existential threats. Realistically, most people behave according to the now, their immediate needs, and are less concerned about the future or next generations. Sadly IMHO.

The climate change story should focus more on addressing current human needs, and the narrative needs to be more about things that humans can actually relate to like drought, hurricanes, pollution, and resource depletion. Things that can be seen, touched, and felt.

I also agree that we have to change the climate change narrative to one that is more empowering and based on love than fear. What that story is, I have no idea, but I’m happy to help join in the discussion. Project Drawdown is great because it’s a simple list of easily understood action items.

Meal Idea: Plant-based Szechuan Beefless Strips with Pan-fried Padrons, Squash Noodles and Fried Brown Rice

This meal is something you can easily make for dinner because it doesn’t involve much prep. Thankfully, there are plenty of plant-based alternative meats available to choose from.

My favorite Asian beef alternative is  Gardein’s Sizzling Szechuan Beefless Strips . The texture of these beefless strips reminds me of a crispy sweet and sour pork like you get at Chinese takeout places.

I cooked the strips per the instructions and sprinkled some flax seed on top for extra protein and Omegas. The sauce Gardein uses to flavor the beefless strips is amazing! I wish they would bottle that stuff up because I would buy a whole bottle of it. It tastes like a sweet, soy stir-fry sauce.

Recently, I bought a Veggetti Spiralizer for like $10, and I’ll be honest because of this gadget I have become addicted to spiralizing vegetables, mostly zucchini or yellow squash. The Vegetti makes some real fun thick and thin veggie noodles.

To make the noodles, I used organic Zephyr squash which is one of my favorite squashes because of its fun yellow and green stripes. Use any of your favorite squash like zucchini or yellow squash. No need to cook the noodles because they actually taste better raw.

I love Padron peppers! Definitely try them if you haven’t. Padrons are a Spanish pepper and only about 3″ long. They have an earthy, sweet, nutty flavor and are mild 99% of the time. Occassionaly though, a couple in the bunch will be hot. It’s like playing roulette. In all the years I’ve eaten this pepper, only twice have I gotten a hot one.

If Padron peppers are not in season or available in your area, try other sweet peppers like Shishito or Jimmy Nardello.

Quickly pan sear a handful of chopped Padron peppers with olive oil, a pinch of garlic powder and pinch of sea salt.

Mix the cooked padrons in with the raw Zoodles and some chopped red onion.

The fried rice is simply pan-fried pre-cooked brown Jasmine rice with organic carrots, corn, edamame, and a little soy sauce for flavor.

Thai Peanut Noodles With Sugar Snap Peas, Shiitakes, and Tofu or Plant-based Chicken

The great thing about noodle dishes is that it’s a meal in itself. This dish is a favorite because it’s tasty, and the sauce has protein because it’s made with peanuts.

This Thai peanut noodles dish is versatile because for a main protein, you can go with a high-protein fried or baked tofu, or a plant-based chicken like Gardein Chik’n Strips (minus the Teriyaki sauce) or Beyond Chicken Grilled Strips which I used in the photo.

The easiest noodle to use is spaghetti. Trader Joe’s has a great gluten-free spaghetti noodle made from brown rice which is what I used. For a little more protein, TJ’s also has a brown rice and quinoa spaghetti noodle with 5g of protein per serving and 2g of fiber.


  • 8 ounces of cooked spaghetti noodles
  • 4-5 shiitake mushrooms sliced into slivers
  • Shred 1 small carrot with a grater
  • 1 cup of sugar snap peas
  • 1/4 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 cup of cubed fried or baked tofu, or plant-based chicken cut into cubes*
  • (optional) Sesame seeds or flax seeds for garnish

*If using plant-based chicken, pan cook the cubed chicken in a little oil for a few minutes to brown it and crisp the edges a bit. Put to the side until ready to add to the noodles.

* One of my favorite pre-baked tofus to use for this dish is Nasoya Sesame Ginger Tofu Baked.

The peanut sauce (options):

Pre-made peanut sauce

For quick ease, you can just buy the peanut sauce in a bottle like Thai Kitchen Peanut Satay Sauce. To thin the sauce so it’s easier to stir into the noodles, use some left over water from your cooked noodles.

Put a few tablespoons of the peanut sauce into a small mixing bowl. Slowly pour a little of the warm spaghetti water like a tablespoon into the sauce then stir to start thinning the peanut sauce. Repeat this process until you get to the thickness you like.

Homemade peanut sauce

If you want to make the peanut sauce at home it is pretty easy. Here are the ingredients.

  • 1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1 – 1″ piece of ginger grated
  • 1 small garlic clove minced
  • Red pepper flakes (if you want to add heat)

Put the peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in microwave for like 20 seconds. Not long. You just want to melt the peanut butter a bit.

Put the rest of the ingredients into the bowl with the melted peanut butter. Mix really well.

Use some left over water from your cooked noodles and slowly pour a little of the warm water like a tablespoon into the sauce then stir to start thinning the peanut sauce. Repeat this process until you get to the thickness you like.


In a small wok or pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil or avocado oil.

Sautee the chopped onion in oil until the onion is softened.

Toss in the shiitake mushrooms, and sugar snap peas, and continue to stir fry until the mushrooms soften.

Toss in the shredded carrot, and mix in well. Cook for a quick minute just to soften the carrot a bit.

Start with a small amount of peanut sauce and pour into the noodles. Mix well to coat the noodles in sauce. Continue to mix in more peanut sauce until you reach the amount of coating to your liking.

Toss in the cooked tofu or plant-based chicken, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, and snap peas in with the noodles and mix well.

Place noodles on plate and top with chopped green onion and sesame seeds or flax seeds like I did in the photo.


Video: Highlights of the 2018 Sacramento Vegfest

I went to the Sacramento 2018 Vegfest and it was a fun event! I’m trying to go to more vegan and veg events this year so I can meet new plant-eating friends and discover new foods. Sacramento is not known to be a huge veg town so it’s great to see that in its third year, the crowds were pretty big for something like Vegfest.

I thought it was particularly wonderful to see so many families and kids. In fact, there was a whole area just for kids to play games and learn more about vegan living.

Some of my favorite vegan foods had a booth there like Cultured Kitchen who makes a vegan butter called “Better Buttah.” There Garlic Chive buttah is so good and makes an amazing garlic bread!

Jada Spices who makes a vegan Chicken seasoning salt in various flavors that has a remarkable chicken-like flavoring. The salt is great for the flexitarians who are transitioning away from meat yet still want some meat tastes.

There was also a vegan Ethiopian food booth, and I wanted to get a plate but the line was so long the whole time I was there.  You’ll see their food in the video. The line for vegan Soul Food was three times as long. Wow!

It’s exciting to see people here in Sacramento lining up for delicious vegan food.

Added Facts About Meat Marketing Related to the New PETA Commercial Featuring Emmy Award Winning Actor James Cromwell

Normally, even for a plant-based eater, I cringe when I see PETA commercials because they usually go too far with the condemnation and gore. It doesn’t help the image of the vegan movement.

However, PETA is learning, and they created this commercial called, “Redemption” featuring Oscar nominated and Emmy winning actor James Cromwell as a priest giving confession to a meat industry marketing executive.

This one is worth watching because there are many truths about the marketing of meat, and the casting of Cromwell as the priest is brilliant! I would view this commercial as one of those “If priests said what they really want to,” or “if the meat industry really was honest.”

Most know James as an animal rights activist, and as an actor from the movie Babe where he played farmer Arthur Hoggett and was nominated for an Oscar. Doing Babe motivated James to go vegan. He won the Emmy for his role as Dr. Arthur Arden in American Horror Story. James has even played the Pope twice in the movies, “Pope Pius XII” and “Pope John Paul II.”

PETA wanted to buy air time for this commercial for the 2018 Super Bowl but were told they had to pay $10+ million up front before it was even considered. The going rate for Super Bowl ad spots is $5 million. You do the math here.

I think it’s also good to have some data to backup this Redemption commercial so consumers can have a better understanding with really how much they are being spun about the meat they buy.

Here are some of the facts:

The phrase “Humanely raised” is a marketing term. It’s subjective. There is no legal or federal definition of “humanely raised.” If you go to the USDA site’s section on food definitions, you will not find “humanely raised.” There are third party labels like “Certified Humane” but the standards for third party labeling are not federally determined or regulated.

There is not ONE federal law that protects farm animals during their life. Some states have their own laws. In fact, there are only four Animal Welfare laws at the federal level. Two of those four laws protect farm animals at the end of their life: the first one is called the 28-Hour Law which covers the animals during transport from farm to slaughter, and the second is the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act which surprisingly only covers cows, pigs, veal, and lamb but does not cover chickens, turkeys, ducks, or any other birds.

Broiler chickens raised in factory farms, the “healthy meat,” on average only live 6 weeks and are fed primarily a GMO corn and soy diet because it’s the cheapest protein along with synthetic amino acids that can help them grow the fastest in a short period of time. In human terms, that rotisserie chicken from the grocery store you are eating is a newborn. A regular chicken can live 20 years.

99% of farm animals in the US are raised in factory farms. In 2017, over 9 BILLION animals were slaughtered for food. That image of happy cows, chickens and pigs roaming in lush green open fields represents only 1% of meat which primarily comes from small family owned farms which are sadly struggling, going under or being bought out by the large meatpacking corporations.

Just FOUR corporations control the bulk of the US meatpacking industry: Tyson, JBS USA, Cargill, and Smithfield. Tyson on average slaughters 125,000 cows per week. This is the human population equivalent of the city of Berkeley, CA. Tyson has the capacity to slaughter 175,000 cows per week.

Our government is funding most commercials and marketing campaigns you see that feature beef, pork, dairy, and eggs through Commodity Check-off programs. There is not one Check-off program for vegetables, whole grains, or legumes (other than soy mostly for livestock feed). There is a check-off program for Christmas trees.

And lastly, when you hear someone go on about the “vegan agenda” remember there is no Big Kale, United Council of Veggie Burger Manufacturers, or the Concerned Scientists for Beans where meat, dairy, and eggs special interest groups spend millions of dollars on lobbying and contribute millions to political campaigns.

Low Carb: Roasted Butternut Squash Riced Cauliflower Risotto

I workout using Daily Burn, which I LOVE, and last week after the #DB365 workout, they had on chef Rocco DiSpirito to share some of his most popular plant-based recipes from his new cookbook. One of the dishes he shared was a risotto made with riced cauliflower instead of Arborio rice.

I was so intrigued by making a risotto out of cauliflower because it’s much lower carb than the Arborio rice version. The dish looked so good I wanted to try out the recipe. I am trying to like riced cauliflower but find it challenging because the Asian in me is like cauliflower in rice form is still not rice. Nope. Hard stop.


I love cauliflower and I have been working on cutting down on my rice consumption because I do eat too much and the high glycemic index of white rice is not great in my body. I do eat brown Jasmine rice at home but eating out it’s always white.

I looked online, and fortunately, Rocco’s risotto recipe is available online at Epicurious.

I modified Rocco’s recipe because:

  1. I do not have the patience to “rice” cauliflower from scratch so I went to Trader Joe’s and bought their pre-made cauliflower rice in a 16 oz. bag.
  2. I had some leftover roasted butternut squash from dinner the other night. Butternut squash risotto is my favorite!
  3. I made my risotto vegan using Violife parmesan wedge. This stuff is AWESOME!!

I really did enjoy this risotto. Besides using the Violife parm, what made this dish the tops was using Better than Bouillon No Chicken base for the stock. I cannot believe this buillion is vegan because it tastes just like chicken stock. It really is incredible. I would also try a mushroom stock for this risotto.

I didn’t feel like I was missing the rice too much, and instead felt like I discovered  a new way to enjoy cauliflower.


  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s riced cauliflower or 2-cups (16 oz) of riced cauliflower from scratch
  • 1-2/3 cup plant-based stock*
  • 3 cloves of thinly sliced garlic
  • 1-1/2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsp parmesan cheese

*I recommend using the Better Than Bouillon vegan No Chicken base, but a vegetable or mushroom stock is good too.

  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until translucent
  • Add the cauliflower and stock, and mix well.
  • Stirring occasionally, cook until the cauliflower softens but still has a little crunch, and where enough liquid has evaporated to make the mixture creamy which could take about 8-9 minutes. At 6 minutes in, stir in the butternut squash.
  • Take the skillet off the burner and let the risotto sit for about 10-15 minutes and then mix in the parmesan. In that time, the broth will continue to absorb into the cauliflower a little bit more.

Later, I also added in some sweet peas for extra protein. The butternut squash cauliflower risotto is fabulous with the peas too!


Life of an Advocate: MLK Jr. Reminds Me “You Died When You Refused to Stand Up for Truth”

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr day, below is a quote from his “But If Not…” speech that is often shared, but the last paragraph is most often left out which I think is actually the most powerful and poignant point of the whole piece. Here is the missing piece.

“You died when you refused to stand up for right. You died when you refused to stand up for truth. You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

These compelling words from MLK and the fears he speaks of in this speech are timely for me because this is the exact fear that has been holding me back. If you are a changemaker, an activist, an idealist, a lightworker, you most likely have held similar fears. Recently, what MLK speaks of is the personal issue I have been consciously working on reconciling.

You know that thing you resist the most is actually the thing you need to work on the most. This is mine.


Will you choose courage for truth, justice, and the higher good of all, or will you choose regret. Because that is what will happen if you continue to hide and suppress that calling in the name of the safety of silence.

This specific wisdom and call for action from MLK is so needed right now especially for those of you who have been feeling a calling inside of you for a long time and you have yet to move forward on it because of fear.

You are needed, now, my fellow changemakers.

To hear these words in MLK’s voice will shift you. Listen to the video.

He was killed one year after giving this speech, at the young age of 39. MLK was most definitely an old, wise soul. I can almost imagine if we could talk to him on the other side, he’d say that he has no regret for standing up for what he believed in and not letting fear stop him from his purpose work.

Can you imagine if MLK let fear hold him back and he stayed quiet, and we never heard from him?

What a great loss to the advancement of humanity. And no doubt, he had no idea what the impact of standing in his truth, and shining his light would have years beyond his physical time on earth.

My bestie and I were having a conversation all weekend about the life of a lightworker, and how I have been struggling harmonizing my spirit life, and my earthbound life. I associate joy with one, and brutality with the other, and that’s a problem because this spirit is contained in an earthbound human body.

I do not fear failure or success. I’ve experienced both and understand its the ups and downs of the process, the delight and suspense of the journey. I have deep seated fears and anxiety because I have experienced painful loss and physical violence when I speak truth and step into my light and shine that light on the dark.

I’ve been hiding, staying off the radar for a long time, and for good reason. Time for healing is important too. I won’t diminish the significance and need for that time.

But, there comes a time when hiding no longer serves the higher good for me. My need for safety which does serve me well also inhibits, refrains, this deep calling that burns inside me and aches for release. It also inhibits me in my relationships and developing new ones, more specifically in love and work co-collaborators.

The last paragraph in this MLK quote makes me see that in my perceived sense of safety, at this point, I choose an internal death.

I cannot live like that, but I also do not know how to reconcile this calling for truth and justice with paralyzing fear and need for safety because the idea of being literally beaten and assaulted again mitigates me. I live with PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks so it’s very real.

My biggest lesson in this has been learning self care, compassion, and patience but also tenacity, perseverance, and strength.

On the upside, I am fully conscious of what currently holds me back, and I can observe it and no longer make it a part of my identity like I have for a long time. That evolution I feel good about. The work now is to figure out how to move forward because I have work to do. At The Flexi 21, my boss is Mother Nature, and I have signed up to be of service for the higher good of all.

If you are feeling this too, and it has stopped you, held you back, I so get it. If you have been able to find a way to move forward, first bravo! and I would love to hear how you did it, how you manage.

From MLK Jr, “But If Not…”

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right. You died when you refused to stand up for truth. You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

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