Food & Beverage Social Media

Quick & Easy Breakfast Morning Routine

Both of these recipes taste so good and are a GO TO breakfast meal in the morning! Not only are they very filling, but you can also add in your protein powder to both the drink and waffles. You can completely customize these recipes to your own liking and preferences. There is nothing better like a refreshing fruit smoothie and oatmeal pancakes to get you energized and off to the beach, truly just a chef’s kiss combo! Make sure you check out the Instagram reel at the end to watch a step-by-step video. Hope you enjoy!

Protein Fruit Smoothie

Smoothie Ingredients

~Splash of milk of choice

~Yogurt of choice

~2 frozen bananas

~4 fresh strawberries

~1 scoop protein powder

~1 cup frozen fruit/berries

~Handful of spinach

*BLEND* and serve

Protein Fruit Smoothie

Protein Oatmeal Waffles

Waffle Ingredients

~1/2 cup oatmeal *blend* (or use oat flour)

~1/2 cup protein pancake mix *optional* (not used in this recipe)

~1 scoop protein powder

~2 eggs

~Splash of vanilla extract & cinnamon

~1 banana

*Now mix all together/ Or use a blender to mix ingredients together if you don’t want the texture of banana chunks in your waffles

Protein Oatmeal Waffle
Local Business

Serving Handcrafted Confections to Ventura Locals

L->R: Lexi Quolas (VCS), Sarah Fox (VCS), Jennifer Smith (co-owner), Sophia Smith-Grunder (co-owner), Kelyla Nelson (VCS)

A Family That Creates Together, Stays Together.

Ventura, California is home to many local small businesses, but there are none like Ex-Voto Chocolates and Confections. Offering handcrafted chocolates, organic based ice cream, toffee, house made nut butters, fresh caramel, espresso drinks and much more. This gem has captured the hearts of their patrons using gourmet chocolate that is fair trade and is of single origin. 

Owned and operated by the mother daughter duo, Jennifer Smith and Sophia Smith-Grunder, it took time for them to come up with a name that would fit their passion for confections; that is when they settled upon Ex-Voto. The term “ex-voto” is Latin for “milagro” and by definition, it means an offering given in gratitude for an answered prayer.

This small but mighty business started in 2015 with Jennifer selling her decadent chocolates at the local farmers market in Ojai, California. Two years later, they opened their storefront and flagship business in Midtown, Ventura. Initially, Jennifer encouraged her daughter to focus on a cooking and baking career of her own. It just so happens that Sophia makes a phenomenal caramel, amongst other things, better than Jennifer could of dreamed. Thus, Ex-Voto grew into a run and operated family business. The business has boomed since the duo settled in Ventura and have been making history ever since. 

VC Social got the chance to sit down with Jennifer and get to know the history behind the business and what ignited their future. First things first, a bit about Jennifer: she began cooking when she was just 5-years old and is completely self taught. Her passion led her to culinary school in San Francisco studying pastry and bread making. Although, she continued to educate herself, take specialty classes online and certifications courses in hopes to figure out what avenue truly felt right to her. Jennifer’s intuitive spirit led her to chocolate as she started to see the word popping up in more ways than one. It was enough to spark her interest to teach herself the craft.

Hand painted and crafted chocolate truffles.

Chocolate, Chocolate And More Chocolate!

Jennifer fell in love with how complex, scientific, challenging, and creative chocolate can be. In turn, she draws inspiration from culture, food and nature resulting in truly complex flavor profiles that otherwise wouldn’t be found elsewhere. Her creations take form of one item and converging it with another. This can be seen in Ex-Voto chocolates, like the Sweet Pecan & Chili Gianduja (in dark chocolate) or the Key Lime (paired with white chocolate ganache).

Jennifer has developed close relationships with her patrons; she pays close attention to what customers are asking for and most importantly when they want it. This has played an important role in their business model and identifying their target market. Ex-Voto began focusing on seasonal items to pay homage to the time of year and most importantly what the seasons represent. Almost all year around you can find your favorites like their Turtles (salted caramel with slow roasted almonds) or the house-made peanut butter buddhas in milk or vegan dark chocolate.

It’s Springtime here in Ventura and the Ex-Voto team has been working hard on their seasonal selection; it comes in different shapes, colors and textures including: eggs, bunnies and flower molds. A few of their Spring seasonal items include the Baklava Caramel eggs (using honey cinnamon caramel and pistachios), Pomegranate Rose in dark chocolate, Orange Blossom in white/dark chocolate, and Bananas Foster in milk chocolate, just to name a few. 

Is your mouth watering yet?

Featured Ice Cream menu and additions.

The Unique Ice Cream Flavors

Both Jennifer and Sophia come up with recipes by combining different notes, textures and complementary flavors that are well balanced to make heavenly combinations.

Ice cream is a childhood favorite for Jennifer and she has created each one offered at Ex-Voto to perfection. We asked her how she comes up with the recipes for her batches and she shared that most is trial and error. Like her banana honeycomb recipe, Jennifer explained that she had to experiment to find the best way to bring out the banana flavor considering its rather starchy. Her first initial idea was to do banana and peanut butter but she realized that both flavors were too flat. She tasted, processed and talked with Sophia and other employees, bringing up potential matches until they came up with honeycomb. It gives the banana a complementary sweetness, crunch and bitterness. 

One of the flavors VC Social favored was her in-house made Queso Fresco y Miel ice cream. Jennifer explained that it took her over 15 tries to find the perfect balance between the Mexican based salty soft cheese and sweet notes of honey. The flavor has become one of their best sellers and permanently remains on their ice cream selection. The combination is almost cheesecake-like and pairs well with house-made marshmallow creme that is lightly toasted with a torch in front of you.

Honey Lavender ice cream with marshmallow creme and rainbow sprinkles in a scratch-made waffle cone.

By keeping up with customer demand their business has created a sufficient following. Most importantly, Ex-Voto takes pride in the relationships that they form with each and every customer that walks through their door. We spoke briefly to a customer, Arlene, who told us that Ex-Voto is one of her favorite places to frequent. She loves the quality of their products and whenever her grand-daughter is back in town from college, they make it a point to stop in and grab a scoop of ice cream. Their patrons genuinely feel like they are part of the family and their support in the business continues to other generations.

Supporting Our Community

It was an absolute pleasure chatting with Jennifer and getting to know the ins and outs of her and Sophia’s daily routine and life at Ex-Voto. As we continued to chat after the interview, Jennifer shared another reason why she works as hard as she does. Her son Seth, 21, a student and surfer, has an extremely rare form of cancer called Synovial Sarcoma, one that has very little research on. If you’ve ever wondered why it’s important to support our community and small local businesses, this is why.

Please visit Seth’s website for more information about his journey, treatment and the cancer research fundraiser his family has set up. If you would like to help contribute to their cause for a cure, you can donate directly or find Seth’s custom sticker at Ex-Voto’s storefront location or online here.

Thank you again Jennifer, Sophia and Ex-Voto team for giving VC Social the opportunity to get to know you and discover some new favorite sweet treats!

Food & Beverage Holiday Cook-off

Cafe de Olla

To me, being Mexican-American means eating complex meals on the holidays, surrounded by family, and talking about life and our favorite Mexico memories while we sip on a delicious mug full of Cafe de Olla.

This deliciously strong, sweet and cinnamon-y drink has been the center of countless conversations with my loved ones. I have sipped on it while my grandparents daydream with me about their childhood memories, their parents and how proud they would have been to have seen us build a life here in the States while still managing to hold onto the most special things Mexico has given us: family, love, memories, food and drinks. 

Making this drink is easier than many people think and the ingredient list is short so, if you would like to talk about life, love and memories with your loved ones this holiday season, this might be the perfect drink to warm up your palms and keep the conversation going.


  • Coffee
  • Water
  • Mexican whole stick cinnamon
  • Piloncillo (sugar will do but this is a block of cane sugar that is sure to give your Cafe de Olla a unique flavor profile)


  • Place however many cups of water you want in a pot and place a stick of Mexican cinnamon in it. Heat on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, depending on the amount of water you are choosing to boil.

  • Let the coffee, cinnamon and water come to its boiling point then add piloncillo or sugar to taste.

  • Once the piloncillo or sugar is in, leave on medium-high for 3-5 minutes. Once the time is up, lower the heat to medium/medium-low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Once the 15-20 minutes are up, take your coffee off the heat and set aside to cool for a couple minutes.
  • Strain into a mug (or a taza de barro like me), and enjoy your delicious cup of coffee! 
    • If you need to add some creamer, add a bit of a hazelnut or original flavor creamer and drink up!

I hope this coffee warms you up like its warmed the hearts of my loved ones for generations and generations!

Please leave us a comment to let us know if you tried this classic Mexican Cafe de Olla.

Holiday Cook-off

Ms. Lange’s Potato Salad

I am not a chef. In fact, I wouldn’t even qualify myself as a cook.

In a past article, I proposed that everyone should have a handful of basic recipes that they can rely on. As someone who breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of following a recipe in a timely manner, I am one of those people who needs basic – and I mean basic – recipes. If I don’t read a recipe at least 15 times prior to cooking, something that should take 10 minutes will most definitely take an hour.

Ok so you get it, right? I’m not great at cooking.

I should be, though.

Most people develop their cooking skills from family, shadowing their parents and grandparents in the kitchen and cutting their teeth on recipes passed down through generations. My story wasn’t any different. I sat in the kitchen during every holiday and family gathering, watching my grandmother and all of my aunties cook the dishes that I now associate with comfort and affection. Dishes like Filé Gumbo and Pecan Pie and Crab Soup.

For as much as I witnessed all of this cooking and baking and memory-making, I should be a James Beard Award-Winning chef.

And I’m not exaggerating – my grandmother’s sister, who learned the same family recipes from the same matriarch, is a James Beard Award-Winning chef. That’s right, my aunt was such an influential chef, she inspired the creation of a Disney Princess. She was Tiana. 

Basically, I’m saying I have no excuse. I should be able to do all of this, but for whatever reason, I’ve never felt as comfortable in the kitchen as I would like to. This is why my grandmother’s (or more accurately, my great-grandmother’s) potato salad recipe is so important to me. 

I learned how to make this recipe for two reasons: because I hate every other potato salad I’ve ever tried and because it’s so incredibly simple. It’s simple, but still delicious and makes me feel close to my family every time I make it and share it with others. Also, it makes the others that I share it with think I can cook. Next time you have a potluck or dinner party, whip up a batch of this potato salad and watch as your friends’ eyes light up. You can thank me later.

Ms. Lange’s Potato Salad


Serving Size 8

8 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced

2 cups Mayonnaise

¼ cup Green onions, chopped 

¼ cup Parsley, chopped



Step One: Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. The general rule of thumb is to include one potato and one egg per serving. This recipe calls for eight, but if you’re only cooking for six people, use six potatoes and six eggs. Likewise, if you’re feeding an entire baseball team, maybe buy a whole bag of potatoes. You will most likely have leftovers, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. Next, you’ll put the potatoes in a big pot, fill it with water about an inch higher than the potatoes, bring it to a boil and let them cook for about 15-20 minutes or until they are soft all the way through. Then drain the potatoes and let them cool. In the past, I’ve cooked the potatoes before I’ve cut them, but I’ve found that you get a more even cook if all the potatoes are cut to the same size. Besides, they call that game “Hot Potato” for a reason.

Step Two: Hard boil the eggs. I’ve read so many different instructions on how to hard boil eggs and I’m sure I do it a different way each time. I’ve done it on the stove, in an Instant Pot, I’ve even seen instructions on how to do it in the oven. It doesn’t matter much how you do it, but if you’re like me and always have to look it up, here you go: put the eggs in a pot, fill it with water about an inch higher than the eggs. Bring the water to a boil, then take it off the heat, cover it and let the pot sit for about 10 minutes. After that, put the eggs in a bowl of ice water and let them sit for another 10-15 minutes, or until they’re cool. When they’re cool enough to touch, peel them and dice them into sections about one centimeter wide. 

Step Three: Mix it all together! Stir the eggs and potatoes all together with the mayo, adding in the diced parsley and green onions as you go. If you’re not a fan of mayo you can use less. If you love it like I do, add in as much as you want! Season with salt and pepper to taste, let it chill out in the fridge for a bit, and you’re good to go!