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Exciting News

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It has been well over a month since I have posted anything and there’s a good reason.  I am three months pregnant!  Eric and I decided we were ready and succeeded on the first try!  This is our first baby and the first grandchild on both sides, so it’s a very exciting event for everyone.  My first trimester was a little rough.  I had a lot of fatigue, nausea, and heartburn, but I’m starting to feel much better.  I was coming home from work every day, throwing together some kind of meal, then laying down on the couch and staying there pretty much all evening.  I hadn’t felt the drive to write at all, so the blog has been quiet.  I plan to step it up now while I still can, before the third trimester and the arrival of our little munchkin, when I’ll have no time whatsoever.

Oh, and an important note.  When talking with my Certified Nurse Midwife about eating healthy during the pregnancy, I told her I was vegan and she was very pleased to hear it.  She kept saying that I was eating a very healthy diet, so all should be well.  I did admit I had been eating a lot of bread lately, because it helps settle my stomach.  She told me that the first trimester is pretty much a free pass because you eat what you can.  All blood tests so far have come out great – further confirmation that a vegan diet is nothing but healthy.

Anyway, that’s my news!  I’ll report back on being vegan while pregnant!

Vegan at Disneyland – Hungry Bear Restaurant

I have posted about Disneyland before and will continue to update as I try different vegan options in both Disneyland and California Adventure.  Click here to see all posts about Disneyland.  Eventually, I plan to put together my own comprehensive list.

My sister and I were looking for a new vegan place to try on our recent trip to Disneyland, so we consulted the impressive 23-page Vegan Cowgirl guide to vegan options at Disneyland.  It’s dated 2013, so the information is pretty current.

We went over to the Hungry Bear Restaurant (located near Splash Mountain and the Winnie the Pooh ride) to try the Fried Green Tomato sandwich.

Hungry Bear Restaurant, Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

It’s cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes, layered with heirloom tomatoes and jicama-mango slaw and served on a multigrain roll.  Just make sure to order it without sauce or cheese.  Unfortunately, even though I said the exceptions twice, she didn’t get that I didn’t want cheese, so I had to wait for them to re-make the sandwich.

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich - Hungry Bear Restaurant, Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

It was worth the wait, though because this sandwich was tasty!  I loved the fried green tomatoes (never had those before!) and the batter was a little bit salty, which went so well with the rest of the sandwich.  I was worried that without sauce or cheese the sandwich might be dry, but it was actually really moist because of the tomatoes.  It tasted really fresh and was filling without being heavy.  The fries were fine, especially with some barbeque sauce.

Bonus points for being less expensive than the Vegan Gumbo at Royal Street Veranda and the Tofu Rice Bowl at Lucky Fortune Cookery in California Adventure.  There’s also a cute little area to sit and eat, with a view of the Mark Twain riverboat as it goes by.  It’s never all that crowded on this end of the park, whereas finding a place to eat your gumbo can be a nightmare in New Orleans Square.  I will definitely be ordering this one again, particularly on warm days since it’s not too heavy.

Vegan at The Counter

I have been to The Counter, a burger chain restaurant in the past, but it was before I went vegan.  Early in my vegan days, I did some online searching and found that their veggie burger patty wasn’t vegan (I believe it had egg in it), so I didn’t think about going back until I heard recently that they now offer a Vegan Veggie patty.

Eric and I were out shopping and passed a location of The Counter, so we stopped in on a whim to try it again.  I tried to quickly look up if any of the buns were vegan, but their website isn’t very mobile-friendly.  I asked the waitress and was told that none of the buns were vegan.  I was initially really irritated.  What is the point of having a vegan patty if you don’t offer any vegan buns?  Buns don’t need animal products.  I just don’t get it.  They’ll be getting an email from me about that.

UPDATE:  The always knowledgeable Insufferable Vegan has since let me know that the ciabatta buns are vegan.  The CEO of The Counter has confirmed it.  I knew I had seen this information somewhere, but we just stopped in on a whim, so I didn’t have time to check into it in advance.  Good move, The Counter, offering a fully vegan burger option!  However, I have to say that my husband has told people since our visit that you just get so much more food when ordering it in a bowl and I have to agree that it was pretty great that way.

I opted to have my vegan burger in a bowl (this costs an extra $1 – what the hell, The Counter?!) with organic mixed greens, tomatoes, roasted corn and black bean salsa, roasted green chiles, roasted red peppers, and housemade guacamole (a premium topping for $1.25 extra) with Sweet BBQ sauce.  I ended up with a sorta Tex-Mex BBQ salad.  Scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for a list of all vegan options.

Build Your Own Burger, The Counter | A Vegan in Progress

It was actually very tasty and extremely filling.  The patty was warm and had visible pieces of veggies in it.  You can see what looks like spinach, red pepper, carrots, black beans, and corn in the second photo.  The patty was really hearty and immensely preferable to the microwaved veggie patties at Red Robin.

Eric and I ordered large fries to share, which turned out to be way too much.  They were shoestring cut and I commented that they were well cooked, since shoestring fries tend to be floppy or burned.  Eric said that it’s because they are twice-fried.

Large French Fries, The Counter | A Vegan in Progress

The burger in a bowl option is really tasty and I look forward to trying their ciabatta bun on a future visit!

FYI:  the allergens are listed on their website, and the following items are marked as vegan.

Sauces

  • Apricot Sauce
  • Dijon Balsamic Dressing
  • Ginger Soy Glaze
  • Habanero Salsa
  • Lemon Vinaigrette
  • Red Relish
  • Sweet BBQ Sauce

Sides

  • French Fries
  • Sweet Potato Fries
  • 50/50 – Fries/Sweet Potato Fries
  • Side Salad
  • Grilled Vegetable Plate

Patties

  • Vegan Veggie Burger Patty

Buns

  • Ciabatta (according to the CEO, but not yet listed on their allergens page)

Toppings

  • Baby Spinach
  • Bermuda Red Onion
  • Black Olives
  • Carrot Strings
  • Dill Pickle Chips
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Grilled Onions
  • Grilled Pineapple
  • Jalapeños
  • Lettuce Blend
  • Organic Mixed Greens
  • Roasted Chiles
  • Roasted Corn & Black Bean Salsa
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Scallions
  • Sliced Cucumbers
  • Spicy Pepperoncinis
  • Sprouts
  • Tomatoes

Premium Toppings (extra charge)

  • Avocado
  • Housemade Guacamole
  • Sautéed Mushrooms
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Beverages

  • Fresh Iced Tea
  • Still/Sparkling Water
  • Soda – All

That’s the entire list from their website as of 2/8/14.  I haven’t left anything out, anything I didn’t list isn’t vegan.  You can use this post as your mobile-friendly cheat sheet since their website doesn’t work well on mobile devices.  You’re welcome!

*Marinated Artichokes is oddly listed as not vegan, but it doesn’t say what’s in it.  It might be worth clarifying with the staff if you’re interested.

Vegan at Disneyland – River Belle Terrace

I have posted about Disneyland before and will continue to update as I try different vegan options in both Disneyland and California Adventure.  Click here to see all posts about Disneyland.  Eventually, I plan to put together my own comprehensive list.

My sister, Samantha, and I went to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago and decided to try the famous Vegetable Po’Boy at the River Belle Terrace (across from Tarzan’s Treehouse).

River Belle Terrace, Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

Unfortunately, it looks like that was just recently taken off of the menu.  The new vegan item is Becky Thatcher’s Black Bean Cakes, which are served with pineapple relish, cucumber salad, and red pepper coulis.

Becky Thatcher's Black Bean Cakes - River Belle Terrace | A Vegan in Progress

The black bean cakes were nice and moist.  They didn’t seem to be cooked all the way through, but were warm, kind of like the black bean burgers I made.  The red pepper coulis was delicious and a little spicy.  I’m not really one for pineapple, but it went well with the red pepper coulis and wasn’t overly pineappley.  Definitely don’t let it stop you from ordering the meal unless you’re allergic.  The cucumber salad was refreshing and overall, the flavors balanced really well.  There’s also a small salad bar with assorted salad toppings in the dining area, so we grabbed some pequeno peppers for free.

Pequeno Peppers and Becky Thatcher's Black Bean Cakes - River Belle Terrace | A Vegan in Progress

If other people wanted to eat at the River Belle Terrace, I wouldn’t hesitate to order this dish again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.  I felt it was a little pricy for what you got.

 

Vegan at Hugo’s Restaurant, Post 2

I have already talked about Hugo’s Restaurant, but I thought that I could do multiple reviews of restaurants as I make subsequent visits.  Click here to see previous posts about Hugo’s Restaurant.

After my previous visit to Hugo’s Restaurant with my mom and my sister, I was really looking forward to taking Eric there.  It’s a place where we both have a bunch of options to choose from, which is a real pleasure.

After absolutely loving my mom’s order of Pasta Victor last time, I thought I would try a different pasta order.  I got the Penne Con Verdure, which is described as “Red lentil penne is organic, protein-rich, gluten-free and GMO-free. Served here with a marinara-pesto sauce, chopped tomatoes, Kalamata olives and blend of seasonal vegetables. Topped with fresh basil.”  It was very tasty and well-cooked, but was sort of disappointing because I felt I could have made it myself.  I guess it’s my bad for ordering it, but I guess I just thought I would be blown away like I was with the Pasta Victor sauce.  It was perfectly fine, but I won’t likely order it again.  Sorry for the terribly blurry photo.

Penne con Verdure, Hugo's Restaurant | A Vegan in Progress

Eric ordered their seasonal holiday meal.  It came with stuffing, hash brown cakes, mashed sweet potatoes, and chicken.  Everything but the chicken was vegan, so I tried a bite of each to report back.  The mashed potatoes and stuffing were fine, but they didn’t blow us away.  The little hash brown cakes, however, were somewhat burned as you can see in the photo.

Holiday meal, Hugo's Restaurant | A Vegan in Progress

Overall, this was a bit of a disappointing meal.  I’m sure to be back at Hugo’s again, but I’m not as impressed as I was on my previous visit.

Vegan at El Torito

This year, my bosses chose El Torito as the location for our company Christmas party.  I was a little wary about what my options would be because sometimes company parties are set menus and it can be difficult to order anything else.  In advance, I called and asked if there was a set menu.  The woman who answered the phone couldn’t answer many of my questions, but told me that she thought we could just order from the regular menu and she thought that the rice had chicken stock in it and the beans possibly had lard or cheese.  It wasn’t very helpful at all, so I started searching the internet for any information about what vegan options there may be.  I found out that she was correct, the beans and rice were not vegan.

The vegan options I found through online research are as follows:

Spinach Enchiladas, no cheese or rice or beans:  Sauteed fresh spinach, pasilla chiles, onions, pico de gallo, and fire-roasted tomatillo sauce.

Veggie Fajitas, no chile relleno:  Fresh zucchini, spinach, potatoes, peppers, carrots, squash, green beans, onions, fresh rosemary and mint leaves.

Supposedly there is a Veggie Burrito full of tasty veggies, but I couldn’t find that on the menu.

The guacamole is also vegan-safe.

I went with the Veggie Fajitas.  I didn’t take a picture because no one at work knows about my blog.  Most of them don’t understand the concept of vegan (my boss once told me about a whole, organic chicken she saw and thought I might be interested in, thinking it was vegan) and I tend to get teased in a way that your grandpa or an uncle might tease you about being vegan.

The fajitas came out on one of their sizzling skillets with the tortillas in a warm container.  I assembled them myself with generous heaps of guacamole on top.  The vegetables were julienned and the perfect size, plus they were cooked perfectly.  The rosemary and mint really added an interesting flavor dimension, too.

I surprisingly really enjoyed the meal and would be happy to return.  I just wouldn’t schedule another group meal at the El Torito in Woodland Hills because our waitress was horrendous.  She forgot to put the order in for my food, so myself and a few considerate people sitting around me had to wait a full 15 minutes after everyone was served.  She was also pretty pushy, telling me that I couldn’t get a blended margarita and bringing me one on the rocks, when people around me were able to order blended.  She even patronizingly told another diner that next time she needs to say “tostada” when she wants her salad in a taco shell.  The girl, shocked, mumbled, “but I did say tostada.”  I will definitely avoid her section if I ever go back.

Vegan at Zia Valentina Cupcakes, Los Angeles Farmers Market

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My husband and my dad have a great relationship and often go to events without me.  They were early for a small entertainment industry event, so they stopped at the Los Angeles Farmers Market to pick up some grub.  Eric noticed a new cupcake stand and saw that they offered vegan cupcakes, so he very thoughtfully stopped and bought me one.  Eric mentioned more than once how friendly and approachable the employees/proprietors were.

Eric got a card from them, so I did a little research and checked out the Zia Valentina website, which is not yet complete.  They boast “fresh and natural ingredients, with no preservatives, no sugar,” which is always good.  The website lists the following vegan options: espresso drinks with non-dairy milks, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal coconut cookies, vegan cupcakes, and a vegan oatmeal coconut chai frosting sandwich.  They actually list 6 different types of vegan cupcakes – take that Sprinkles!  There’s red velvet, s’mores, chocolate coconut, chocolate banana, vanilla chai, and carrot.  However, there’s one major issue.  While kindly telling Eric all about the vegan options, it came out that the red velvet cupcake is vegan except for the frosting.  Apparently, the frosting for this particular cupcake has egg in it.

Eric was assured that the vegan s’mores cupcake was actually vegan, so he brought it home at the end of the night.  After hearing about the problem with the red velvet cupcake, I was a little concerned about the s’mores cupcake, but I took them at their word and tried it out.  It was hands down better than Sprinkles’ yucky red velvet cupcake (found in the same place).  The cake wasn’t dry at all, despite sitting in the car for a few hours until Eric got home and the frosting was thick and creamy.  My only complaint was that the “s’mores” flavor was very faint.  Had I not known that it was supposed to be s’mores, I don’t think I would have realized what flavor it was.

Zia Valentina | A Vegan in Progress

I would definitely stop by the Zia Valentina cupcake stand on a future visit, but I have a few concerns that I hope they address in the meantime.  I applaud their effort to provide healthier cupcakes and other treats, especially vegan ones.  I would just encourage them to do a little more research into the restrictions involved in the vegan diet so that they can truly offer legitimately vegan desserts.  I’m worried that, if the vegan red velvet cupcake has egg in the frosting, the s’mores cupcake may have gelatin in the marshmallow frosting or honey in the graham cracker crumble.  Once they get a good understanding of the vegan diet, I’m sure they will be great competitors to the nearby Sprinkles booth.

On a side note, I still prefer No Udder Desserts and I’m glad that they are the closest to my home.