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Vegan at Tomato Joe’s Pizza, Valencia

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My sister Alli and I were sort of in the area for another visit to Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres, so I looked up a few places for good vegan food on our way home.  We decided on pizza after seeing that Tomato Joe’s Pizza in Valencia offered gluten-free crust (Alli’s preference) and vegan mozzarella cheese.

Here’s what I got:

Tomato Joe's, Valencia | A Vegan in Progress

My pizza from Tomato Joe’s

I ordered a whole wheat crust (only available in 14″ or larger) with vine ripened tomato sauce, artichoke hearts, black olives, and sun dried tomatoes with vegan mozzarella cheese.  I thought it was really good, but I still prefer Cruzer’s.

Alli ordered a pizza with the only crust they offer for an 8″ personal pizza, the thin crust.

Tomato Joe's, Valencia | A Vegan in Progress

Alli’s pizza from Tomato Joe’s

She got the bar-b-que sauce with onions and artichoke hearts.

Their menu offers a variety of items, not just pizza, but the only vegan non-pizza options are salads.  Their fresh garden salad without croutons and with balsamic dressing is vegan, as is their greek salad without cheese or croutons, but this would also have to be with balsamic dressing since it is the only vegan choice.

They have many specialty pizzas, but it’s simpler just to design your own pizza with all vegan ingredients.  Choices are as follows:

1.  CRUST

  • Thin crust
  • Beer batter crust
  • Whole wheat crust
  • Gluten-free crust (made with rice and potato flours), additional charge

2.  SAUCE

  • Vine ripened tomato sauce
  • Creamy dijon sauce
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Bar-b-que sauce
  • Chipotle pesto sauce (I will definitely be trying this one next time!)

3.  TOPPINGS

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Fresh spinach
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Roasted garlic
  • Green peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Olives (black, kalamata, spanish green)
  • Pepperoncini
  • Pineapple
  • Red onions
  • Tomatoes (fresh and sun dried)
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Cashews
  • Almond slivers
  • Canned mushrooms
  • Vegan italian sausage, additional charge
  • Vegan pepperoni, additional charge
  • Vegan chicken, additional charge
  • Vegan mozzarella, additional charge

Prices are as follows:

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Their website suggests asking for a multi-topping discount if you order 3 or more, since the cost adds up quickly.

The company has made an effort to convey a kooky and friendly atmosphere, as evidenced by their sales pitch on the website:

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I will likely go there again for the rare vegan pizza with vegan cheese as opposed to the standard cheeseless pizza from Papa John’s.

VegiLicious All Natural Vegan Cafe, Huntington Beach

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My parents have been going to the same accountant for years. In fact, before they went to him, they went to his father. When I was little, I used to play on the floor of his office during their appointments. As I started working, I used to handle my taxes myself, but once I got married and started writing off educational expenses and dealing with family trusts, they became too complicated for me, so I started tagging along on their annual appointments.

We have sort of made it a tradition to go on a Saturday and have a lunch out, just the three of us, which I really enjoy. For this year’s lunch, my mom searched for restaurants ahead of time, since we aren’t that familiar with the area. She came across VegiLicious All Natural Vegan Cafe, which apparently just opened a few months ago.

VegiLicious, Huntington Beach | A Vegan in Progress

They are tucked back into the courtyard area of a shopping center, so it’s a little difficult to find. The decor is simple and inviting and I loved the ocean breeze that we got from the door that was left open.

VegiLicious, Huntington Beach | A Vegan in Progress

I really liked the little cards on every table explaining “why vegan?” and concluding, “in short, you can make yourself and others happy!”

VegiLicious, Huntington Beach | A Vegan in Progress

It’s so nice to be able to order anything you want from the whole menu… it’s a serious treat to dine at an all-vegan restaurant. After some trouble deciding, I ordered the Signature Curry with Oven Baked “Chicken” Tenders and asked for shelled edamame to be added in the curry. The meal comes with jasmine rice and a side salad.

VegliLicious - Curry with "chicken" tenders | A Vegan in Progress

The side salad was delicious… the dressing was just perfect. I also loved the way that they prepare the curry. They present you with a bowl of mild curry and a side of rice, as well as a small pot of spicy sauce to mix in at your discretion. I was able to make the curry as spicy as I liked, but I’m sure this was also good for diners who like their curry mild.

VegiLicious - Side Salad | A Vegan in Progress

The chicken tenders were great for dipping in the curry, but I’m pretty sure they were just Gardein brand and not house-made. I’ll take well-made store bought meat replacements over bad house-made ones any day.

My parents both got small cups of the Miso soup, which they really liked.

VegiLicious - Miso Soup Cup | A Vegan in Progress

My mom ordered their Tofu-N-Radish Salad…

VegiLicious - Tofu-N-Radish Salad | A Vegan in Progress

and my dad got the Grilled Teriyaki “Chicken” Sandwich with a side of edamame.

VegiLicious - Grilled Teriyaki "Chicken" Sandwich | A Vegan in Progress

My dad was very impressed with the sandwich and kept asking, “you’re sure this isn’t chicken?”

After thoroughly enjoying our entrees (we practically licked our plates clean, we were so pleased with the meal), we ordered a couple of slices of the Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake to share.

VegiLicious - Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake | A Vegan in Progress

It was tasty, but I was pretty disappointed. As you can plainly see, this is not chocolate cheesecake, it’s chocolate chip cheesecake. I don’t like regular cheesecake nearly as much as chocolate cheesecake. Plus, this was obviously store-bought and still frozen in the center. My mom and I were sharing a piece and couldn’t finish it, but my dad loved his, so to each their own.

The service at VegiLicious is something that must be commented on. They had only one waiter who was extremely friendly and attentive. The owner also came by more than once to see if we liked what we had ordered. The service and entrees alone were plenty to have me saying I would be back whenever I am in the area.

However, the prices were a little steep for the portions we received and I was put off by the dessert. I hope they work on those things, because this was a great restaurant!

Vegan at Bit O’ Denmark, Solvang

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Yep, you read that correctly.  I actually had an awesome vegan meal in Solvang, land of meat and pastries.

Bit O' Denmark, Solvang | A Vegan in Progress

Thanks, Wikipedia!

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.  They are both transplants from other parts of the state, so Eric and I try to take them to places that they have never been before.  Solvang is a little Danish town in the Santa Ynez Valley (that’s in Santa Barbara County) that’s about two hours away from us.  The drive is gorgeous, especially if you take Topanga Canyon to Pacific Coast Highway and work your way up PCH.  This is where we stopped to take in the view.

Our usual foursome

Our usual foursome

Check out that view!

California coast

The unobstructed coast

When we arrived in Solvang, we set out to find a place to eat that would make everyone happy.  I didn’t plan ahead as I usually do, but figured I could just get a side salad if all else failed.  We looked at quite a few menus and settled on the oldest food establishment in Solvang, Bit O’ Denmark.

I ordered the vegetarian salad without any cheese and with their basil vinaigrette dressing.  The salad comes with grilled veggies (I believe it was mostly peppers and zuchini) and I asked for roasted tomatoes as well.  I love that the salad comes on top of rice!  It was not something I had ever thought of before, but it was awesome!  The veggies were grilled absolutely perfectly, too.

Bit O' Denmark Salad | A Vegan in Progress

Bit O’ Denmark Salad

It was nice to have a real meal that was pleasing rather than just some boring side salad with only tomatoes on it, especially in a city that is in general, not very vegan-friendly!  While I would like to see what other restaurants have to offer, I would definitely dine there again if we were in the area.

On our way home, we couldn’t resist stopping at the beach.  Of course, this was in February and the waters are always frigid off of California coast (that’s due to upwelling, as I learned in my California Geography for teachers class), so we joyfully shrieked as our toes touched the freezing waves.

This, folks, is why people love California.

California I'm coming home... oh will you take me as I am... strung out on another man... California I'm coming home

California I’m coming home… oh will you take me as I am… strung out on another man… California I’m coming home

I couldn’t resist the Joni Mitchell reference.  =)

Vegan at California Pizza Kitchen

I have categorized this post both under dining out and dual dining because California Pizza Kitchen is a great place for vegans and omnivores to eat in mixed company.

My mom works as a preschool teacher and some of the parents gave her generous gifts this holiday season.  She invited my sister and me to have lunch with her at California Pizza Kitchen, courtesy of a gift card from a parent.  We researched ahead of time and saw that on the menu page of their website, they have a special menu for vegetarians and vegans (I have attached the PDF here: CPK_vegetarian_and_vegan_menu).  Here’s a summary of their offerings:

Pizzas:  Thin crust only with pizza marinara, vegetarian black bean, and spicy marinara sauce only.  Ask for any thin crust pizza with one of those sauces without any meats or cheeses.  The California Veggie is already vegan (with minor modification).

Pastas:  Avoid multigrain penne, tomato basil sauce is the only vegan one that they offer.  Ask for any of the pastas with tomato basil sauce without any meats or cheeses.  Tomato Basil Spaghettini is already vegan (with minor modification).

Salads:  Any salad with fat-free balsamic, lemon herb vinaigrette, or hoisin ginger vinaigrette dressing is vegan as long as you ask for it without any meats or cheeses.  Chinese Chicken (no chicken or wontons), Field Greens (no Dijon balsamic or candied walnuts), Quinoa and Arugula (no cheese or Champagne vinaigrette), and Roasted Veggie (no Dijon balsamic) are already vegan (with minor modifications).

Appetizers and Sides:  The following are the only vegan options… asparagus and arugula salad (no cheese), white corn guacamole and chips, lettuce wraps (ask for only Chinese vegetables), Tuscan hummus (ask for thin crust instead of pita bread).

Soups:  Currently, the only vegan soup is the Dakota smashed pea and barley soup.

Sandwiches:  Currently, there are no vegan options available for sandwiches.

Desserts:  Currently, there are no vegan options available for desserts.

To start, we ordered the white corn guacamole and chips.  I didn’t try the corn guacamole (I believe I may be allergic to avocado), but my mom and sister thought it was good, but a little bland.  The chips were tasty, but it was a very small appetizer for the price.

CPK - guac and chips | A Vegan in Progress

We ordered the California Veggie pizza on thin crust with spicy marinara sauce, although the pizza came out of the kitchen with regular marinara.  It was very tasty.  I don’t usually like thin crust pizzas, but this was a winner and not hard at all.  It comes with “baby broccoli, eggplant, corn, red onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, Mozzarella and tomato sauce,” so we asked for no cheese and got the traditionally original crust pizza on thin crust instead.

CPK - veggie pizza | A Vegan in Progress

We also got the Roasted Veggie salad.  The website says it includes, “warm artichoke hearts, asparagus, eggplant, red and yellow peppers, corn and sun-dried tomatoes served over cool Romaine, avocado and housemade Dijon balsamic vinaigrette,” so we ordered it sans Dijon balsamic, with balsamic vinegar instead and the avocado on the side.  This was a really great, light, but flavorful salad.  I would order it again, but I definitely preferred the pizza.  It’s probably what you’re in the mood for if you’re dining at the California Pizza Kitchen anyway.  Please excuse the blurry photo.

CPK - roasted veggie salad | A Vegan in Progress

Overall, CPK offers tasty options for vegans.  While many restaurants just offer meals that are acceptable, these are actually enjoyable.

Vegan Recipe – Easy Southwestern Salad

I have been super busy lately, so I’m sorry about the lag between posts.  This is proving to be a really challenging semester and it just began a few weeks ago!  I have a salad recipe to share with you today, but I use the term “recipe” loosely here.  I tend to just toss in whatever sounds like it would taste good together.  I thought that this was a particularly tasty combination, so here’s the list of ingredients.

Southwestern Salad
– spinach
– leftover corn, cut off the cob
– chopped red bell pepper
– chopped tomato
– Lightlife Chick’n style Smart Strips
– Daiya pepperjack style vegan cheese shreds
– crumbled tortilla chips (not pictured)
– salsa verde
– squirt of lime juice

Easy Southwestern Salad | A Vegan in Progress

Black olives would have been nice as well, but I was all out of them.  The chips aren’t pictured because I forgot to add them until halfway through devouring this salad, but the crunch made a really nice addition.

Whenever packing a lunch for work, I put the greens in one reusable container with a paper towel folded and placed on top of them.  The paper towel absorbs moisture and helps keep your greens fresh (a tip from my mom).  Then I package all of the wet ingredients including any dressing in a separate container.  Anything that has to stay dry (like tortilla chip crumbs or rice noodles), I put in a plastic snack bag.  Sometimes I will wash and sort out a few containers of spinach at a time along with wet ingredients for a variety of different salads on Sunday so that I can grab and go during the week.

I’ll have another semi-recipe for you later in the week, hopefully.  Thanks for reading!

Dual Dining – Chinese Salad

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My husband, Eric, does not have plans to change his diet to exclude animal products.  This is totally up to him and I am doing my best to avoid lecturing or attempting to persuade him.  So far, he has been pretty understanding about my compulsion to share what I learn about the lifestyle.

One of the challenges that I have experienced while adjusting my diet is cooking for both of us.  We eat together every night when I am not in school and I prefer that we eat the same thing, rather than just fend for ourselves and simply eat with each other.

This brings me to what will be a regular post on A Vegan in Progress: Dual Dining.  These posts will describe meals and recipes that I try, create, or alter to be both Omnivore and Vegan friendly without much hassle.

Today’s Dual Dining meal is based off of the Okami Chinese Chicken Salad mix from Costco.  Please excuse the use of photos I found on a Google search, but I didn’t have photos from the night I made this dinner.

Costco Chinese Chicken Salad Kit | A Vegan in Progress

Growing up, we ate a lot of Chinese chicken salad from Costco and I love it.  The kit offers enough ingredients for two huge salads of lettuce (or spinach, which I prefer) almond slices, wonton strips, rice noodles, and chicken.  All ingredients are packaged separately, making it easy to use substitutions in place of certain ones.

After looking over the ingredients, I found that the greens, almond slices, and dressing were vegan.  Just a quick trip to Ralphs later and I had wonton strips and rice noodles that were animal product free.  To make one of each version of the salad, all that I did was toss the greens, almonds, and dressing, then split the salad in half and mix in the wonton strips and rice noodles specific to each salad.  For Eric’s salad, I warmed the chicken in a small amount of the dressing that I held to one side and added it to the bowl.  I don’t miss the chicken when I leave it out, but I suppose tofu would be a nice replacement if necessary.

An even simpler version (and slightly cheaper) would be to make the entire salad from vegan versions of each ingredient, since there is little difference between the Costco and Ralphs wonton strips and rice noodles and toss with a vegan grocery store bought dressing, such as the Ken’s Steak House Lite Asian Sesame with Ginger and Soy dressing that I also found at Ralphs.

Add mandarin oranges if you like such things in your Chinese salads and there you have it – an easy entrée salad for both to enjoy!