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Native Foods, Palm Springs

The day after Christmas this year, Eric and I went to Palm Springs for a few days to stay at a timeshare that my bosses have.  They said they know that I have been working really hard and they appreciated it.  They almost never come in anymore… I run the office and email them everything.  I know it’s really important for them to have someone they trust in the office and for me, it’s important to have bosses who appreciate me.

Before going, I hadn’t done any research into places I could eat.  The timeshare complex that we stayed at had a kitchen in each apartment along with a barbeque, so we planned to cook for ourselves a lot of the time.  One night, he barbequed and I put some vegan frozen burger patties wrapped in foil on the grill.  I topped the “chicken” patty with sriracha, guacamole, and a slice of tomato for a supremely yummy burger.

One day, we decided to go dutch for lunch, thinking that we could each get something at different nearby restaurants (we often do that when we find ourselves hungry in food courts and such), so I googled vegan restaurants in the area.  To my surprise, Native Foods popped up and was less than 2 miles from where we were staying.

Native Foods, like Veggie Grill, is a popular, pretty inexpensive vegan restaurant.  I’ve heard about it since I went vegan, but never had the chance to try it.  They have a few locations that aren’t too far away from where we live (about 25 minutes), but I’m not really one to fight the 405 freeway for some quick dinner.  So, I was thrilled to get a chance to try it while in Palm Springs!  I later found out that this was their original location, tucked away in a courtyard of shops and restaurants.

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The line was a little long when I walked in, but that’s okay because having a full menu to choose from makes it tough to decide!  I was torn between the Scorpion Burger, the Mambo Italiano Wrap, and the Twister Wrap, but I decided on the Scorpion Burger because it was the daily special and came with a free side.  I chose fries as my free side. I also ordered the Sicilian Caponata Crostini.  Then I signed up for their rewards program and got a free drink.  There were a few house-made cold drinks: Lavender Lemonade, Watermelon Fresca, and Iced Tea.  I went with the Lavender Lemonade, which was delicious and refreshing.

Native Foods, Palm Springs - Sicilian Caponata Crostini | A Vegan in Progress

The Sicilian Caponata Crostini is a starter, described as, “savory roasted eggplant, tomatoes, caramelized onions and red peppers in a balsamic reduction with fresh basil, capers and currants on garlic crostini.  It was a great start to the meal.  Although, at $6.95, it was more than $1 per piece, so I wouldn’t likely order them again.

Native Foods, Palm Springs - Scorpion Burger | A Vegan in Progress

The Scorpion Burger is described as, “our original Native Tempeh burger! Homemade blackened Tempeh, chipotle sauce, romaine, carrots, avocado and onions.”  The Tempeh was very good blackened, but in comparison to store bought tempeh (which I am most used to), the tempeh seemed to be made of much smaller pieces of soybeans.  This wasn’t good or bad, just something I noticed.  I liked the mound of carrots and avocado on top.  The chipotle sauce was great.  The only thing I didn’t like was the fries.  They were cooked fine, but I hate shoestring fries.

Native Foods, Palm Springs - Scorpion Burger | A Vegan in Progress

My first visit to Native Foods was great.  The staff was very friendly and helpful and the restaurant was cute.  I really loved how their menu described each of the Native Meats and their Native Cheese (made with cashews and sunflower seeds) so that, if you’re unfamiliar with things like tempeh or seitan or even how a vegan cheese is made, you get a little description of each.  The weather in Palm Springs was perfect, so it was nice that they had a lot of outdoor seating.  My only complaint was that I waited 30 minutes to get my food, while people seated around me who had ordered after me were being served.  I was really impatient and hungry by the time they finally brought me my dish.  This is the only reason we didn’t go back to Native Foods one more time before leaving town – I didn’t want to wait.  I’m sure I will be back, though, to other locations.  There’s still a lot of potentially delicious items on their menu waiting for me to try them!

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!

Vegan at Venice Ale House, Venice

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For our close friend’s birthday, we met her and a group at Venice Ale House, a cute place located right on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

I checked their website ahead of the visit and saw that they offer “local California wines and a full menu of organic and sustainable food.”  Whenever a restaurant mentions organic, sustainable food, I get my hopes up for interesting vegan options and Venice Ale House did not disappoint.

I ordered the Spooni Special Vegan Scramble with tempeh bacon from their brunch menu.  This was my first experience with tempeh bacon and it was a total mouthgasm!  I never even liked bacon as an omnivore, but there’s something so awesome about that smoky “meaty” texture in a scramble.  The scramble came with the aforementioned tempeh bacon, red potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, garlic sauteed onions, roasted bell pepper, black beans, and market greens (I ordered it without avocado).  I haven’t had much variety, but this is seriously one of the best vegan breakfasts I have ever had.

Venice Ale House - Vegan Scramble | A Vegan in Progress

Love that tempeh!

After we finished the meal, we walked the boardwalk to people watch.  Venice is a crazy place, but a must-visit for any tourist in town!

Happy Birthday, Jessica! | A Vegan in Progress

Happy Birthday, Jessica!

Vegan Recipe – Tempeh Tornado

My apologies for missing so many weeks recently!

I know that I tend to make a lot of slow cooker recipes, but it’s what keeps us fed while I’m in school.  I promise some active cooking recipes soon.  In fact, I’ve got a brownie recipe for next week!

Anyway, I haven’t had Sloppy Joes in I don’t know how many years, but for some reason I decided to try the Tempeh Tornado recipe from The Vegan Slow Cooker: Simply Set It and Go with 150 Recipes for Intensely Flavorful, Fuss-Free Fare Everyone (Vegan or Not!) Will Devour.  If you haven’t already – I really recommend picking up your own copy of the cook book, because there are so many awesome meals in it.  The Tempeh Tornado recipe makes a hearty sandwich filling that’s so nice and cozy.  It’s so good for warm dinners in the winter.  It also works really well for lunches if you pack the filling and the bun separately.

Please excuse the paper plate!  This photo is from when I enjoyed it at work for lunch!

Tempeh Tornado | A Vegan in Progress

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 packages (8 ounces) tempeh, cubed (I just crumbled it)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ bell pepper
  • Buns for serving

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes of 3 cups chopped fresh
  • ½ cup water  (Add a little more water if you will be cooking it for more than 9 hours.)
  • 1 tablespoon vegan chicken-flavored bouillon
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider, plain white or white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon molasses (I didn’t have any and it was fine without)
  • 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (This stuff is expensive!)
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder or smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon pasilla chile or regular chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce (to taste)

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

Steam the tempeh in a steamer basket for 10 minutes.  This takes out some of the bitterness.  While the tempeh is cooking, mince the garlic and bell pepper,

To make the sauce: place all the sauce ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.  Add the tempeh, garlic, and pepper, cover, and store in the fridge.

(You may have noticed this by now, but I tend not to prepare this stuff the night before, so I prepared everything in the morning and it worked out fine.)

IN THE MORNING:

Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Serve as open-faced sandwiches or on buns.