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Slow Cooker Moroccan Eggplant and Artichokes

This is a slow cooker recipe with good flavor that adds some variety to our standard evening meal rut.  It’s from Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.  My only complaint is that I’m not a fan of slow cooker recipes that require 30 minutes of prep and cooking before even putting the food in the slow cooker.  It’s not absolutely required, but the cook book says that cooking it in advance gives it the best flavor.

Moroccan Eggplant and Artichokes | A Vegan in Progress

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups thawed frozen artichoke hearts or 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and halved
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins or chopped dried apricots (I didn’t add these)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, for garnish (I didn’t have any)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, for garnish (I didn’t add this)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked chickpeas (optional – I am definitely adding those next time)

 

Directions:

  1. For the best flavor, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 1 minute longer.  Add the eggplant and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle on the coriander, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and cayanne, and stir to combine.  Alternatively, omit the oil and saute these ingredients in a few tablespoons of water or combine them in a microwave-safe bowl with a little water, cover, and microwave for 2 minutes.
  2. Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker.  Add the artichokes, bell pepper, olives, raisins, and chickpeas.  Stir in the broth and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on Low until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 hours.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.  Serve hot, sprinkled with the lemon juice, parsley, and lemon zest.
  4. Serve over couscous.

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.

Follow Your Heart, Canoga Park

I’m very lucky to live near one of the best vegetarian health food markets in LA.  Follow Your Heart is a vegetarian market with a restaurant as well as a yoga studio.  The company is responsible for the many popular Follow Your Heart products including as Vegenaise, Vegan Gourmet Shreds, and various vegan salad dressings.

FYH Exterior | A Vegan in Progress

The first time I visited Follow Your Heart, I wasn’t vegan.  I went with my younger, longtime vegan sister and I had a hard time finding anything I wanted to order.  I was a little less than willing to try new things.  I don’t know if I ordered something that just wasn’t all that good (I don’t remember what it was) or if it was because I went in with a bit of a closed mind, but I was not a fan.

However, my sister very graciously invited me to dinner after staying over at our place and she loves Follow Your Heart, but doesn’t live close enough to dine there regularly.  So, I was looking forward to trying it again, this time with an open, vegan mind.

Be warned if you happen to visit, when you walk in to Follow Your Heart, you will feel confused and lost.  You enter in the market, near the registers… just walk past them and all the way to the back.  In the back corner is the entrance to the restaurant.  It is even tinier than the market.  Don’t let that discourage you, it’s perfectly fine that way.  In fact, this just means that you will be in closer proximity to the celebrities who dine there.  Seriously, one time Allison and I saw Travis Barker and his son there.  We were led to the patio out front, which was nice.

I ordered the Nutburger, vegan.  It’s described as “A Nut and Vegetable Patty on a Toasted Whole Wheat Bun, Baked with Raw Rennetless Cheddar Cheese, and Topped with Sprouts, Tomato, Pickles, Vegenaise, and our Special Sauce.”  It tasted great, especially with the Wizard Sauce (request it – that stuff is tasty).  The nut and vegetable patty was not very firm.  It wasn’t sloppy, but it did fall apart just a little bit.  I’m not usually a fan of big piles of sprouts, but they went really well with the burger.

Allison always wants us to look like we are insane diners for blog photos.  Don’t mind our insanity.

Allison ordered the Organic Tempeh Tacos, vegan.  They are decribed as “Two Organically Grown, Stone Ground Corn Tortilla Shells, Filled with Seasoned, Grilled Organic Tempeh, Jack and Raw Rennetless Cheddar Cheese, Tomatoes and Fresh Cilantro. Served with Organic Spanish Rice, Organic Black Beans Guacamole, Sour Cream and Lime Wedges.”  She loved it, especially with some added Wizard Sauce.

We both ordered the vegan chocolate shake, after confirming that it doesn’t contain bananas (I’m allergic); Allison ordered extra chocolate.  I found them really bland, not all that creamy.  I’ve made better vegan chocolate shakes myself (check out the post on that), so I don’t think I’ll order that again.

Vegan chocolate shake, Follow Your Heart | A Vegan in Progress

I’m will definitely be dining at Follow Your Heart again if Allison has anything to say about it!  I’m also likely to stop by to pick up hard to find vegan products since the market is on my way home from work.  Definitely worth stopping in if you’re in the area!

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 Recipe – Spaghetti Squash “Pasta”

In the new year, I have been trying to increase the amount of whole foods that we consume.  To me, this means coming up with creative ways to eat less processed food and re-think traditional meals.  I have already experimented with (and found that I love) cauliflower rice, so I decided to try spaghetti squash pasta next.

I followed these instructions from Colorful Eats for preparing the squash.  First you bake it a bit, then you cut it open and clean it out a lot like preparing a pumpkin on Halloween.  Then you use a fork to scrape out little shavings from the inside of the squash.  This took a whole lot of wrist strength, to the point where I felt that I maybe undercooked the squash.

Preparing Spaghetti Squash | A Vegan in Progress

Cleaned squash on the left, Squash shavings on the right

Once I was done preparing the spaghetti squash shavings, I mixed them with everything I would put in a typical Italian pasta bowl.  I added kalamata olives, tomatoes, basil, garlic, and just a little bit of a red pepper spread.

Spaghetti Squash Bowl | A Vegan in Progress

It has a little bit of a crunch in comparison to spaghetti, and the pieces are obviously shorter, but it’s got the feel of a bowl of pasta without the guilt.  Eric happily ate the leftovers on another night.  He said that he would eat it again, and so would I, but I’m not sure it was worth the effort.  It was kind of a pain to prepare, especially in comparison to the incredibly easy cauliflower rice.

Sweet Thymes Bakery

This weekend, Eric and I were in Santa Monica, so we stopped by Viva La Vegan to pick up a few new products to try.  I have heard that they often have Ronald’s Donuts (from Las Vegas) and was thrilled to see a stack of pink donut boxes near the register.  I ended up buying donuts from boxes that said “Sweet Thymes,” a bakery of which I had never heard, so I asked where it was located.  I was told that it was based in Studio City, which is incredibly close to home, so I was really excited.  After a little research, I am disappointed to say that it doesn’t look like they have a store front, but they can be ordered (minimum 12 donuts) for pickup or delivery.

Two Chocolate Donuts, Sweet Thymes | A Vegan in Progress

I got two donuts to try and, of course, they were both chocolate.  I don’t think there’s any donut worth having that doesn’t have chocolate.  First I tried the typical puffy donut with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.  The frosting was tasty, but the donut was a tad chewier than I remember typical donuts being.

Sprinkled cupcake, Sweet Thymes | A Vegan in Progress

Next, I bit into the very messy looking chocolate donut filled with chocolate tofu creme.  The center was not as chocolatey as the toppings, but it was very, very creamy.  The filling tasted like rich pudding.  Long after I finished it, I was still thinking about it.  This was the best donut I can remember having.  Ever.  Amazing.  Now, if only they would open a store!

Chocolate Tofu Creme, Sweet Thymes | A Vegan in Progress

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 Recipe – Spicy Eggplant Tofu

Eric and I recently tried a Thai restaurant that’s walking distance from our place.  I ordered a yellow curry with tofu entree the first time, which was your typical yummy curry.  The second time, though, I felt adventurous and ordered the Spicy Eggplant and Tofu dish.  I’m so glad I did because it was fantastic.  The crispy sides of the tofu cubes combined with the soft eggplant were perfect.  After ordering it a couple of times, I thought I might try my hand at making it.  I’ve already been successful in making the best Kung Pao ever, why not Spicy Eggplant Tofu?

Spicy Eggplant Tofu | A Vegan in Progress

I turned to my favorite recipe search engine, Pinterest, and found this blog post from Made Weekly.  I wouldn’t call it a recipe, it was more like a meal guideline.  I love the way she took the photo of the ingredients.  The photo and the simplicity of the meal over the other ones I found were what made me go with this particular one.

This was a complete hit.  Because I added a little extra cornstarch, the sauce was thicker and a little sticky.  It even looked sort of restaurant-quality.  It was super flavorful and filling and went perfectly with cauliflower rice.  Eric, my resident non-vegan loved it and looked really sad when I said there wasn’t much more.  When planning our dinners for next week, I asked if he would like it again and got an enthusiastic affirmative.

Below is my adapted version of the Made Weekly Eggplant Tofu Stir Fry.  There weren’t any measurements, and I threw it together without really measuring, so these are mostly estimates.  I was out of miso, basil, and ginger, so I went without and it was still great.  This made enough for two large servings, with a little bit left over.  Next time I would likely double it for more delicious, delicious leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of firm tofu, pressed and cubed (My mom recommended popping it in the freezer for half an hour to an hour before slicing it and it really does hold its shape in the pan better that way.)
  • 1 eggplant, cubed (I had never cooked with eggplant before and didn’t know how to approach it.  I don’t know what I was worrying about, because I just cut the ends off, cut it in half, and cubed the rest with no problem.)
  • Approximately 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
  • Approximately 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (Use only 1 Tablespoon if you want a thinner sauce.)
  • Approximately 1/3 cup sesame oil (This is totally optional and not mentioned in the Made Weekly post.  I just didn’t have any miso, which I knew was a major flavor contributor for this dish, so I used some sesame oil, but didn’t want to overpower the meal, so I also used grapeseed oil.)
  • Approximately 1/3 cup grapeseed oil (or any basic cooking oil)
  • Approximately 1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • Approximately 1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • Some red pepper flakes if you like it spicy
  • Miso to your liking (I didn’t use it.)
  • Basil to your liking (I didn’t use it.)
  • Ginger to your liking (I didn’t use it.)
  • About 1/2 a head of cauliflower for cauliflower rice

Directions:

  • First, soak the eggplant in salt water for about an hour to reduce bitterness (a trick from my sister, Alli.
  • Drain, press, freeze, and cube tofu (see above for why I recommend freezing it for a bit).  Heat cooking oil with a little sesame oil for flavor.  Add tofu cubes to the oil and drizzle liquid smoke lightly over all of the tofu cubes.  This is my tofu trick.  It smells amazing and makes the tofu a really interesting addition to the meal, rather than a bland hunk of protein.  Stir it continuously so it doesn’t burn until the tofu is brown and crispy, then set aside.
  • Whisk together garlic, miso (if you’re using it), soy sauce or tamari, vinegar, a splash of water, and cornstarch.
  • Fry eggplant, ginger (if you’re using it), and garlic in oil (I used the same oil from cooking the tofu) until it begins to soften.  Add soy/tamari sauce mixture and stir until sauce thickens and eggplant is fully cooked (it will look yellowy-brown rather than white).
  • While the eggplant is cooking, chop your 1/2 head of cauliflower into floret-sized chunks so that the food processor will be able to handle it.  Pulse the food processor until the cauliflower bits are about rice or bulgar-sized.  Place cauliflower into a microwave safe container with a lid.  DO NOT ADD WATER.  Pop one corner of the container so that steam can escape.  Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until it’s all warm enough to eat.
  • Add tofu and toss it all together.  Mix in red pepper flakes (or allow each diner to add it at their discretion, as we have to do it in my house) and basil.
  • Eat your seriously delicious meal!

Vegan Recipe – Slow Cooker Quinoa Chili

As part of our non-traditional Christmas dinner this year, I offered to bring chili over to my parents’ house.  I found this recipe on Hangry Tales through Pinterest.  It was relatively easy to make and the extras froze well for satisfying lunches.  The chili was smoky and flavorful and absolutely awesome with some vegan scoop-shaped corn chips.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped (1 3/4 cup)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 (4 ounce) cans diced green chiles
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 (15 oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro

I know that seems like a lot, but hang in there!

Directions:

  1. In a large crockpot, add all ingredients except for the quinoa and cilantro.  Stir until very well combined.
  2. Turn it on at high heat for at least 5 hours, depending on the type of crockpot you have. I did 8 hours and then kept it on warm until it was eaten.
  3. Stir in the quinoa and cilantro at the very end, (and I topped it with a little quinoa for looks) and serve warm.
  4. It will keep well in sealed containers in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.