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Vegan at Ike’s Love & Sandwiches, Walnut Creek Bay Area

While up in the Bay Area for the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, we planned to spend some time with our close friends, Randi and Ethan.  I’ve known Randi since we were in preschool together, so it’s been over 25 years!  Visiting with her parents and siblings feels like spending time with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We don’t see each other too often because of the distance, but it’s great catching up… it always feels like no time has passed at all.

Anyway, Randi was excited to take us to Ike’s Love & Sandwiches in Walnut Creek since they have a variety of both omnivore and vegan sandwiches.  In fact, the menu says “Most of our 100 veggie sandwiches can be made vegan, so just ask!!”  The menu only listed 12 veggie sandwiches, but their website describes many more.  It would probably be a good idea to check out the website in advance of you visit so that you have more to choose from.

Ike's Love & Sandwiches | A Vegan in Progress

I initially asked for the Meatless Mike: vegan meatballs, marinara, and (vegan) pepper jack, but the cashier told me that they didn’t have any vegan meatballs because their local Trader Joe’s stopped selling them.  Instead, I ordered the Pilgrim on sourdough: vegan turkey, cranberry sauce, sriracha, and Havarti.  I asked if they just left off the cheese to make it vegan or if they had a vegan cheese; the cashier said that they use vegan cheese.  I wasn’t clear on whether it was a vegan Havarti or just some all-purpose vegan mozzarella or something.  I wouldn’t know the difference by taste because I don’t believe I ever tried Havarti before going vegan.  I asked for lettuce and tomato and I detected a little vegenaise in the sandwich upon unwrapping it.

Ike's - Vegan Pilgrim | A Vegan in Progress

I never would have thought to combine cranberry sauce and sriracha, but they were delicious together.  It was the messiest sandwich ever and I went through a ton of napkins.  I thought it was a creative and yummy sandwich, I just feel conflicted about one thing.  I’m pretty sure the vegan turkey was Tofurky brand and they use Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs for other sandwiches.  I just hate paying for what I can make myself.  On the other hand, I am grateful that restaurants are starting to purchase store bought supplies so that they can easily offer vegan options.  I will gladly stop by whenever we are in the area and in the meantime, Eric pointed out that I can use their menu as inspiration for original vegan sandwiches at home!

Ike's Love & Sandwiches | A Vegan in Progress

On a side note, Randi’s mom is interested in making her diet a more plant-based one and she may read this -> Hi Pam!

Vegan Thanksgiving

For many years, my youngest sister, Allison was the only vegan in the family.  However, for the last two years, we have been lucky enough to celebrate cruelty-free as a family.  I thought I would share our recipes for a tasty, cruelty-free Thanksgiving.

Vegan Thanksgiving | A Vegan in Progress

 

Moist Stuffing with Quinoa

Thanksgiving Stuffing | A Vegan in Progress

This is a very simple stuffing recipe, with a little interesting addition of quinoa.  I love stuffing this way, with a little vegan gravy.  Some people may be interested in making a from-scratch stuffing (it’s certainly healthier that way), but as you may know, I’m more of a semi-homemade cook.  My mom also made a drier, from scratch stuffing for those in our family who prefer it that way.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Box of Mrs. Cubbison’s Classic Dressing (I found this brand at Ralphs, but any vegan box stuffing will work)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup (1 and a half sticks) of Earth Balance butter (the recipe calls for 1 cup, or 2 full sticks, but that felt like too much and this tasted perfectly fine)
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegan chicken flavored boullion
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth for the quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon vegan chicken flavored boullion for the quinoa

Directions:

We are going to make the quinoa first.  I think the instructions found here make the best quinoa, I have just made a couple of changes below, based on what I did.

  1. Cover the one cup of uncooked quinoa with cold water, enough to wash it thoroughly.
  2. Then drain through a fine mesh strainer.  Allow to dry for 20 minutes to remove all the water (I just propped the strainer up over the sink to drain).  Don’t skip this step because it will come out mushy.
  3. Toast clean, dry quinoa in a dry pan until you can smell the nutty flavor that has now been brought out in your quinoa, about 5 minutes.  This also removes any additional water that may have been left behind by the rinse.  This is a good time to start the stuffing if you want to be time-efficient (instructions below).
  4. Remove quinoa from the pan, set aside.  Add 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth and 1 tablespoon of vegan chicken flavored boullion to the pan.  Stir until the boullion dissolves.  Bring broth to a rapid boil.
  5. Add toasted quinoa to the broth and cover, leaving the lid at a slight angle to vent steam.  Reduce your heat to medium-low and maintain a strong simmer.
  6. Cook for 16 minutes or until all the broth is done.  Remove from heat and remove the lid.
  7. Allow to cook and rest for ten minutes and then fluff with a fork.

Next up, stuffing.

  1. In a large pot, melt vegan Earth Balance butter on medium heat.  Add chopped onion and celery and saute until translucent.
  2. Gradually stir 2 cups of vegetable broth and 2 tablespoons of vegan chicken flavored boullion into the pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat, add both bags of stuffing mix and blend lightly.  Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
  5. Blend in the quinoa and fluff the stuffing with a fork.

 

Vegan Gravy

Vegan Gravy | A Vegan in Progress

I have never made gravy myself and didn’t want to attempt it this year.  I got a 24 ounce tub of Shallot & Thyme vegan gravy at Whole Foods for $5.99 and felt it was worth it to not have to make it myself.  It tasted great, but if you are interested in making your own, this recipe from Our Veggie Kitchen looks good and relatively easy.

 

Creamy Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto | A Vegan in Progress

This recipe can be found in The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester.  It is made in a slow cooker, making it great for multi-tasking in the kitchen, but I also found it helpful to have something that could be warmed up and served in a slow cooker rather than on the crowded range or in the oven once we got to my parents’ house.

My only complaint was that the risotto came out a bit bland.  I think some more (and fresh!) seasoning would have helped.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cooked butternut squash or 1 1/2 cups pureed cooked fresh
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Add the water, rice, squash, nutritional yeast, thyme, sage, and rosemary to the slow cooker.  Cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours (I cooked for 2 hours, checked it, then added half an hour), until the rice is cooked through but still al dente.  Stir every 20 to 30 minutes, adding extra water if needed.  Season with salt and pepper and taste and adjust the herbs.  This makes 6 servings, so I doubled it to make plenty for Thanksgiving.

 

String Beans with Vegan Garlic Butter Sauce

Ingredients:

  • About 1 1/2 pounds of fresh green beans, cleaned, with the stems cut off
  • About a handful of wax beans (yellow string beans), cleaned, with the stems cut off
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted vegan butter, I used Earth Balance
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • A dash of salt

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, heat minced garlic and butter until butter is melted.  Let it sit while you cook the beans, making the flavors meld completely.
  2. Fill a large, separate pot about halfway, add a dash of salt, and bring to a boil.
  3. Put cleaned beans into the boiling water and cover, cooking for 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Drain beans, toss them in the butter sauce, and add a little more salt to taste.

 

Vegan Crescent Rolls

Pillsbury Crescent Rolls | A Vegan in Progress

This is pretty self-explanatory, but Pillsbury Crescent rolls are vegan, so I just made a batch of those.

 

Mini Alfredo Pot Pies

Mini Alfredo Pot Pies | A Vegan in Progress

My mom made mini pot pies using Beyond Meat chicken-free strips, Victoria Vegan alfredo sauce, puff pastry, and fresh veggies typically found in pot pies.  They were really cute and tasted great.  However, I always feel like Beyond Meat strips are huge, so they probably would have been better had she cut those smaller or removed them altogether, because the pot pies would have tasted great, even without meat replacement!

 

Purple Mashed Potatoes

Purple Mashed Potatoes | A Vegan in Progress

Rather than the same old, predictable mashed potatoes, just veganized, my sister Samantha made purple mashed potatoes!  It certainly helps the overwhelmingly brownish/beige plate trend that you usually see at Thanksgiving.  There’s no specific recipe that she follows, but here are the general directions.

Directions:

Wash and peel purple potatoes.  Boil until fork tender, then process in food processor until creamy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Mashed Parsnips

Mashed Parsnips | A Vegan in Progress

In an effort to have a dinner full of variety, Samantha also mashed parsnips.  Again, no real recipe here, but general directions are below.

Directions:

Wash and peel parsnips.  Boil until fork tender.  Roast fennel and garlic, then place in food processor with parsnips.  Process until creamy, then add some dill, black pepper, and sea salt.

 

Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Candied Pecans

Brussels sprouts | A Vegan in Progress

Samantha introduced me to brussels sprouts this year!  They were pretty good actually, I thought they had a flavor like broccoli.  I’m already thinking that a balsamic vinaigrette brussels sprout dish would be great.

Directions:

Wash sprouts and remove any loose or wilted leaves.  Cut them in half and toss in olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, then toss in maple syrup and roast in the oven for another 10 minutes.

 

Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger & Vanilla

Sweet Potato Soup With Ginger & Vanilla | A Vegan in Progress

Allison used this recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Post Punk Kitchen.  It was very flavorful and was a nice, little addition to the meal, again, adding variety.

 

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Allison made this special version of cranberry sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Zest from an orange, to taste

Directions:

  1. Place cranberries in a saucepan with water and cover. Bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, remove from heat.
  3. Mix in agave and oj and let sit for 5 mins.
  4. Garnish with zest.

 

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie | A Vegan in Progress

Lastly, Allison made a tasty pumpkin pie using this recipe, again from Post Punk Kitchen.

Give these and other cruelty-free recipes a try this Thanksgiving!  The animals and your guests will thank you!