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Category Archives: Vegan Products

Viva La Vegan Grocery, Santa Monica

The all-vegan market, Viva La Vegan Grocery opened a new location not long ago in Santa Monica.  Eric and I found ourselves in the area and stopped by to see what interesting new vegan products we could try.  First, I want to point out that this is not really a health foods store.  While there are cooking basics such as different kinds of flour, grains, and different sauces, there aren’t a lot of those things and you could get most of them elsewhere.  Mostly, they had the largest variety of vegan processed foods that I have ever seen.  I was there to buy foods that I don’t usually see at our local grocery stores, so I was okay with that.

The store is tiny and packed with vegan goods.  I definitely recommend you stop in and try something new.

Viva La Vegan | A Vegan in Progress

This was our haul.  It was the most expensive bag of groceries I ever bought.  It was over $60 for the items listed below.  Everything was $5-8 each.

  • Artisan Tofurkey Andouille Sausages
  • Tofurkey Chorizo-style meatless crumbles
  • Starlite Cuisine Santa Fe Style Crispy Rolled Tacos
  • So Good Miso Mayo Spicy Red Pepper Spread
  • Victoria Vegan Alfredo Sauce
  • Uncle Eddie’s Vegan Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Tofurkey Vegan Italian Sausage and Fire Roasted Veggie Pizza
  • Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (I used these for Thanksgiving stuffing)
  • Nacheez dairy-free nacho sauce
  • Rising Moon Organics Artichoke and Olive Ravioli

I will post about these as I try them, so stay tuned!

Vegan Recipe – Chocolate Pillsbury Crescents

Sometimes I think I should have called my blog “Semi-Homemade Vegan” because I’m not a from-scratch cook on a day-to-day basis.  I like to challenge myself and try tougher recipes from time to time, but in general I like to make it easy on myself.  My cooking style often reminds me of that of Sandra Lee with the Semi-Homemade cooking show on the Food Network.  However, she can take it to the extreme.  I once saw her take a perfectly good store-bought pumpkin pie and scoop out the pumpkin filling for use in another recipe.  Talk about wasteful and expensive!  Especially when canned pumpkin pie filling can be found at every grocery store in the Fall.

Anyway, this is a very simple and impressive recipe that’s good for morning pastries, snacks, or dessert.  It’s not particularly healthy, but can be thrown together in minutes.

CrescentsIngredients are simple, one roll of Pillsbury Crescents – they are accidentally vegan! – and one bag of vegan chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.

Simply unroll the dough, top the short side of each dough triangle with a handful of chocolate chips, then roll the short side over the chocolate chips toward the point.  Follow the regular Pillsbury Crescents instructions.

When done, eat the crap out of these warm, gooey treats!

Crescent Rolls | A Vegan in Progress

Beyond Meat Retail Packages and Victoria Vegan Roasted Pepper Alfredo Sauce

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If you haven’t heard of Beyond Meat, they first introduced their plant based meat-free product in the prepared food section of Whole Foods.  This meant that they often ran out, the quality was uneven, and you could only get certain recipes.  I was only ever able to try the sesame recipe from our local Whole foods and lucky for me, the quality was great.

Needless to say, I was really looking forward to their retail packages so that I could add their Chicken-Free Strips to any recipe.  A few months ago I decided to try it with bow tie pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, and Victoria Vegan Roasted Pepper Alfredo Sauce.

Beyond Meat Retail Packages and Victoria Vegan Red Pepper Alfredo Sauce | A Vegan in Progress

That sauce is awesome!  It’s super flavorful and very creamy… Eric even loved it.  However, the Beyond Meat left a lot to be desired.  First of all, it was in way bigger strips than when it was sold in prepared foods.  Even when I ate meat I wasn’t interested in strips that thick.  I felt like I had to choke them down and even with a lot of tasty sauce, they seemed dry.

Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips | A Vegan in Progress

Here’s the final result.  It wasn’t a horrible flop of a meal, but I haven’t purchased Beyond Meat since and don’t think I am likely to again.  The Victoria Vegan Roasted Pepper Alfredo Sauce, however, will see the inside of my fridge again and again.

Red Pepper Alfredo Beyond Meat Dish | A Vegan in Progress

Yakisoba Stir Fried Noodles and Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties

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Like Trader Joe’s, Costco has recently increased their vegan food options.  We just go to Costco every so often because we are only two people and it takes us forever to go through our purchases.  However, when I was juicing, Costco was a great place to get produce in bulk, so we went once a week through that time.

Costco offers Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties to be used as veggie burger patties or just crumbled and used as a meat substitute in any recipe.  I find them to be pretty moist, flavorful, and affordable.  My favorite part is the tiny sunflower seeds mixed in.  They go really well with spicy brown mustard.

Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties | A Vegan in Progress

I also recently tried the Yakisoba Stir Fried Noodles from the Costco frozen section.  They are vegan “Japanese-style noodles with crispy vegetables and a savory sauce.  They are a very easy and healthier frozen meal option and they work very well as last minute lunches for work.

Yakisoba Stir Fried Noodles | A Vegan in Progress

I noticed that everything tastes very fresh for a frozen meal.  The “savory sauce” is noticeable on the noodles, but the veggies don’t seem to be seasoned at all.  The second time I had one of the packs, I added Tamari sauce and will be doing that from now on.  This meal reminds me of the Panda Express chow mein if mixed with veggies.  I will be buying these regularly for an easy grab and go work lunch.

Yakisoba Stir Fried Noodles | A Vegan in Progress

Vegan Camping – Table Mountain Campground

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As I mentioned before, two of our closest friends are likely to move out of the state this year, so we have lately been making an effort to appreciate and explore LA and the surrounding areas.  Previously, we went on a day trip to Solvang, where I had a surprisingly nice vegan meal at Bit O’Denmark.  This time we planned a camping trip.  We all agreed on woodsy camping and eventually Eric found Table Mountain Campground in Wrightwood, about two hours from our home.  We estimated that the tent, sleeping bags, two coolers, four chairs, personal bags, and other supplies would not all fit in the trunk of a regular car, so we rented a Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab extended bed.  This turned out to be a great decision because the truck gave us plenty of room for all of our luggage, but was also super comfortable for the ride to and from the campground.

I put a lot of thought into food that would be easy, filling, and easily made vegan for me.  Before the trip, we bought a Coleman Matchlight 2-Burner Propane Stove.  I thought that this would be really useful because, although each campsite has a grill, the stove allowed us to cook two things at once and allowed us to cook something warm for lunch without setting up the charcoal grill again.

We chose campsite #103, in the Zuni loop.  It had lots of shade and a great view and was spaced pretty far away from the other campsites, giving us privacy.  The only downside was that the bathroom was literally a short hike away.  The hill we had to hike up to get to the bathroom, combined with the 7,500 foot elevation left us huffing and puffing every time we had to make the climb.  Something worth knowing about Table Mountain is that you can reserve a campsite, but once you are there, you can change to any other unreserved site, so if you find one with a better view, you are free to move.  Some sites are first come, first served, so this is a good way to get them.  Overnight camping on a single site is $20 per night.

We left early on Friday afternoon and made it to the site with enough time to set up before making dinner. I knew that we would want something quick and easy for dinner after the drive and all the setting up, so I planned on burgers for everyone and Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties for me.  We cut up tomatoes and onions at home and totally forgot to get them out of the cooler Friday night, so our burgers were pretty plain.  I also cubed up a package of Trader Joe’s Organic Baked Tofu, Teriyaki Flavor, before we left.  I wrapped the cubes in tinfoil and cooked it on the grill.  It was actually a really tasty addition to my veggie burger, all on its own.

The next morning, I woke up really early (to use the restroom) and got a chance to see the sunrise.  I decided to set up the propane stove and make some tea.  I was so glad that we brought the tea kettle, because this was a nice treat.  I then set up breakfast for everyone… we had cereal with soy milk as well as bagels and fruit.  After a simple breakfast, we were ready for the day.

The great thing about camping in the forest is the hiking.  During our two off-trail hiking adventures, we came across beautiful views, steep hills, fallen trees, and fleeting glimpses of deer running deeper in the forest.

Vegan Camping | A Vegan in Progress

Hiking, day one

Vegan Camping | A Vegan in Progress

Hiking, day two

After our hike on day two, we were pretty hungry, so we headed back for hot dogs.  They had kosher dogs and I ate Lightlife Smart Dogs.

They taste exactly how I remember cheap hot dogs tasting.  It was nice to have something quick and easy to grill.  I put spicy mustard and chopped tomatoes on them.

Lightlife Hot Dogs - Vegan Camping | A Vegan in Progress

That night, while they had grilled pollo asada, I had an awesome foil pack meal, grilled corn, and grilled veggies.  Prior to the trip, I had done a lot of searching online for recipe ideas and really liked the idea of foil pack meals.  I adapted this BBQ Party Pack recipe from Vegan Yack Attack.

I just made a few changes, though.  Instead of chopped onion, I threw in some Pearl Onions from a frozen bag that I bought at Trader Joe’s.  I decided to double the spices in the recipe.  I also took Yack Attack’s suggestion and added chickpeas.  I also steamed some tempeh, to get the bitterness out, then cubed it and left it in a container of the following marinade, then spooned out the tempeh pieces and added them to the foil pack right before grilling it.

Tempeh Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup liquid smoke
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves

I was really looking forward to this meal and for good reason, because it turned out delicious.  The bell peppers and the tempeh were the best part.  The only bad thing was that I should have chopped the carrots MUCH smaller because they took so long to cook.  They never softened much and I ended up eating around them, mostly.  The foil pack was simple and a very clever way to have a whole meal without a pot, also effectively keeping my food separate from the meat on the grill.

We all ended up with plenty of food.  Get a load of my full plate!

Vegan Camping | A Vegan in Progress

Dinner, night two

A while after dinner we made s’mores (I used vegan ingredients).

We all got ready for bed and a movie.  We brought a small camping table into the tent, set it up at our feet, and watched The Cabin in the Woods on my laptop.  I thought it would be cute and clever to watch a scary movie set in the woods while we were camping in the woods, but it just made it harder to hike up to the bathroom that night!

The next morning, we expected to have chocolate chip pancakes, but the propane stove heated up so hot that the outside of the pancakes were burning before the inside had cooked.  We abandoned that idea, just packed up early, and stopped for breakfast on our way home.

The lesson for me was that vegan camping is actually quite easy.  Foods that are commonly eaten while camping are easily veganized.

I hope this post helps others plan for a dual dining camping trip!

Vegan Camping | A Vegan in Progress

A few tips for future campers:

  • Definitely bring a tablecloth for your picnic table.  I bought tablecloth fabric from a Joann’s near me that is relocating and liquidating all of their material.
  • Go to a Dollar Tree or 99 cent store for the majority of your supplies.  We found big plastic clips there that held the tablecloth down and attached the trash bag to the side of the table.
  • Bring lots of water.  For the four of us, for essentially two full days, we drank 6 gallons of water.
  • Fill large tupperware bins 1/4 full and freeze in advance of the trip.  Run warm water over the outside of the tupperware containers to release the ice blocks.  They have less surface area than ice cubes and melt slower.  Ours lasted us the whole weekend.
  • Freeze all of your food that can handle it… it will work as ice packs as well.
  • Bring reusable water bottles to drink from since you can also use them on hikes.
  • Bring walkie-talkies for the hike to the bathroom at night – cell phones don’t always work in the forest!

Lightlife Smart Dogs and vegan chili

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When I was young, our family always had plans for the fourth of July.  Now that those long standing plans have gone by the wayside, we don’t really do anything in particular for the fourth.  This year, our parents had us over for the day.  My mom made chili and Lightlife Smart Dogs.  The homemade chili was nicely spicy and went well with the Fritos  and Daiya cheese sprinkled on top.  Hopefully some day I will get the recipe from my mom to post it for you.

Lightlife Smart Dogs and Chili | A Vegan in Progress

The Lightlife Smart Dogs tasted like the generic cheap hot dogs that I used to eat.  With a toasted bun and spicy brown mustard, it was a pleasing and holiday-appropriate meal.

After we let our lunches digest a bit, my mom brought out some homemade vegan ginger snap ice cream with fresh peach compote, garnished with ginger snaps.  It tasted like a yummy, icy pie.  I am not usually one for non-chocolate ice cream, but this was delicious.  Way to go Mom!

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Panang Curry

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Trader Joe’s has really been working on their vegan options, and they are adding to them all the time.  In fact, just the other day I saw shredded vegan cheese in the refrigerated section.  I don’t often leave work for lunch, but there are those days when I’m running late and can’t make one ahead of time.  There aren’t a lot of vegan meal options near my job, so I get really sick of Robek’s and Subway.  Trader Joe’s has become my go-to because I can buy a variety of prepared meals there and it doesn’t get old.

Anyway, I recently tried Trader Joe’s Vegetable Panang Curry and found it satisfying, but not spicy enough.  I don’t think that’s the fault of Trader Joe’s, I think that I just like my curry hot.

Trader Joe's Vegetable Panang Curry | A Vegan in Progress

It comes with the rice and the curry in separate compartments, which is really awkward if you don’t have bowls in your desk and you have to try to scoop the vegetables into the rice compartment after cooking.  For the record, I usually have bowls, but we recently took them camping to be used for cereal and haven’t brought them back to work yet.

Trader Joe's Vegetable Panang Curry | A Vegan in Progress

I’m sure I will purchase this again, just for variety’s sake, but I have other Trader Joe’s favoritesl

Vegan Recipe – Soyaki Sliders

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Well, I kind of stole this recipe from my mom.  As you may remember from previous posts, my mom’s meatless meatball sliders are pretty famous with our friends and family.  They are great little bites of party food and pretty simple to make.  I will post her recipe one of these days, but for now, here’s my quick version.

Soyaki Sliders | A Vegan in Progress

INGREDIENTS:

All ingredients can be purchased at Trader Joe’s, making this a one stop shopping trip.

soyaki sliders | A Vegan in Progress

  • Bag of Mini Sesame Seed Buns
  • Bottle of Soyaki sauce
  • Bag of frozen Meatless Meatballs (these meatballs are great for anything, including smushing and using as meatless ground beef, because they are so soft)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Put the meatballs on a plate and microwave for one minute.
  • Put the, now mostly warm, meatballs in a small saucepan.  Add enough Soyaki to coat the meatballs thoroughly.  The ton of sesame seeds in the Soyaki sauce add a great texture.
  • Simmer the meatballs for 5-10 minutes until warm all the way through.
  • Place one or two meatballs on each slider bun and enjoy!

Vegan Recipe – PPK Fronch Toast

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Breakfast can be difficult for new vegans.  So much of what we are used to eating for breakfast involves some type of animal product or another.  It’s a very tough meal to eat out at a restaurant without resorting to fruit or potatoes only.  However, at home, it’s a different story.  There’s a variety of meal options that aren’t difficult to make yourself.  One of my favorite easy recipes is Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Fronch Toast from the Post Punk Kitchen website.  Click here for the recipe.

PPK Fronch Toast | A Vegan in Progress

You can use many types of vegan bread, by my favorites are sourdough and French bread.  They take the batter well without getting soggy.  When I was a kid, my mom always made French toast using an egg and milk wash as opposed to a flour based batter, but this is a great version as well.  In fact, Eric prefers it!

Also pictured are some slices of Tofurkey Italian Sausage.  They are really tasty and go well as a side to Fronch Toast.  I have since found that slicing the sausage in larger chunks works better.  Slicing too thin causes the sausages to overcook.

Try this out with some orange juice.  It makes a terrific weekend meal!

Hail Merry Macaroons

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My friend Randi and I have been close since we were three – we met in preschool.  Even though we live pretty far apart (she lives in the Bay Area and we live in LA), we try to remember birthdays and get together as often as possible.  For my birthday this year, Randi got me a three month Birchbox gift.  Birchbox is a monthly sampler package of beauty and lifestyle products delivered to your door.

Birchbox | A Vegan in Progress

You can log in and fill out a profile so that you get boxes based on your interests.  I added “vegan” to my profile and, in my second monthly package, I got a packet of Chocolate Hail Merry Macaroons.

Hail Merry Macaroons | A Vegan in Progress

They were very rich and coconutty.  Kind of like a coconut truffle.  I would definitely buy them again.  Additionally, the package says that they use raw oils and are certified gluten-free, kosher, and non-gmo verified.

Hail Merry Macaroons | A Vegan in Progress