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Ramen Yamadaya, Sherman Oaks

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Eric and I went with a friend one night a few weeks ago to get ramen.  Ramen Yamadaya is a tiny place in Sheman Oaks that offers Vegan Ramen.  The broth is soy milk based and the noodles are spinach.

I had never before eaten proper ramen and didn’t know what to expect, but the broth was extremely flavorful and the  noodles were great.  I mixed in a little chili paste for added spiciness and some pieces of tofu that I ordered on the side.  In the bowl you get your broth, noodles, corn, tomato, mushrooms, cabbage, and green onions as far as I could tell.  It wasn’t very expensive at $8 for the bowl and while I’m still not a major ramen fan, I would definitely eat this again.

Ramen Yamadaya - Vegan Ramen | A Vegan in Progress

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 at Hugo’s Restaurant, Agoura Hills

I’m lucky enough to have this week off, so I visited my mom’s preschool this Wednesday for her cooking class.  She does a special, weekly cooking class focusing on whole foods, making treats that are all vegan.  Her students were very excited, open minded, and asked great questions.

After a nice visit and some pipe cleaner art, we went to Hugo’s Restaurant in Agoura Hills for lunch.  I checked out their website before our visit and noticed that they were owned by the same people who run Hugo’s Tacos, one of my favorite places, so I was really excited to try something different from them.

Hugo's Restaurant | A Vegan in Progress

What first struck me was how nice and clean their decor was.  There was an air of fanciness that wasn’t stuffy.  Their staff was also impressive.  Our waitress first asked us if we were vegan, vegetarian, etcetera, then showed us the symbols on our menu that indicated which items were vegan or could be made vegan, but meat options were available.  Just like their Hugo’s Tacos menu, most items could be made vegan.  What was most exciting, though, was the variety of dishes offered.  They have everything from pasta, sandwiches, wraps, salads, shepherd’s pie, to Indian food.

My mom, my sister Samantha, and I decided to eat sort of family style – and by that, I mean, eat off of each other’s plates.  We each ordered a different entree and got an appetizer to share.

To start, we got the Asian Spring Rolls, which are described on their menu as “Vietnamese style spring rolls filled with sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, kelp noodles and fresh herbs with a mild sesame-chili dipping sauce”.  They were fresh and tasty, although a little large.  My favorite part was the mouth-watering sesame-chili dipping sauce.  I could have eaten just that poured over broccoli and been very happy.

Asian Spring Rolls | A Vegan in Progress

I ordered Tikka Masala Plate because prior to becoming vegan, I loooooved Chicken Tikka Masala.  I absolutely love spicy Indian food and really wanted to try a vegan version.  For this entree, you get a choice of their American veggie patties or grilled organic tofu.  I chose the veggie patties.  They come covered with an Indian inspired sauce of tomato, onions and spices and are served with turmeric rice, steamed broccoli and cilantro-mint chutney.  It was a spot-on veganized Tikka Masala.  It wasn’t as spicy as I like, but most restaurants don’t make traditionally spicy dishes spicy enough because they try to please everyone.  It was a little heavy, but that’s probably because I ate too much since it was so good.

Tikka Masala | A Vegan in Progress

Probably my favorite element of the meal, though, was the sauce on my mom’s Pasta Victor.  This is a pasta dish with tofu, garlic, sun dried tomato, corn, chilies, cilantro, parmesan cheese and a light chipotle-cream sauce.  That cream sauce was incredible.  I would totally buy it by the jar if they offered it.  I would definitely order this for myself on another visit if I weren’t so excited to try everything on the menu one at a time.

Pasta Victor | A Vegan in Progress

Samantha ordered the Ginger-Tamari Salad with herb marinated organic grilled tofu cooked in a sauce of tamari, orange juice, mango chutney, ginger, garlic and scallions. Served atop finely sliced Napa cabbage and baby bok choy blended with slices of roasted sweet pineapple, julienne red peppers and yellow squash. Garnished with black sesame seeds and pickled ginger.  This salad was pretty much tailor-made for her.  She loves pickled ginger.  It tasted fresh and light and the tofu was a very nice, firm texture with a flavorful marinade.

Ginger-Tamari Salad | A Vegan in Progress

We were completely stuffed by the end of the meal, so we couldn’t try a dessert at the time.  However, I got one to go because I couldn’t resist.  I ordered the Brownie Tort, described on their website as “a wonderful chewy chocolate pecan brownie topped with a fudge frosting and a ripe strawberry. They are so full of whole ingredients we consider them a more nutritious food source than any ordinary dessert.”  Since I ordered it spur of the moment at the end of our meal, it took a while to get it.  Once the waitress brought it to the table, she kindly described how to warm it up at home.  Many hours later, once the food coma wore off, I warmed up the torte and tried it.  The slightly gooey top of the tort was delicious, although the rest was a bit dense and heavy.  The strawberry was a lovely touch, though, cut into the shape of a flower.

Brownie Tort | A Vegan in Progress

I am already looking forward to my next visit to Hugo’s Restaurant and highly recommend it for groups with mixed diets, since it can please everyone.  The only downside is the prices.  You are definitely getting what you pay for, but Hugo’s is too pricy to be a casual, common dining establishment.

Vegan Recipe – Sriracha Tofu Wraps

I recently found myself wanting to cook with tofu again, since I had done so little of it in the past.  I also wanted to try making something with Sriracha sauce.  I came up with Sriracha Tofu Wraps.

Sriracha Tofu Wrap | A Vegan in Progress

It was relatively easy to make.  First, I started with preparing the tofu much like I did in my Tofu Vindaloo with Cauliflower Rice post.  For the sake of ease, I will post it again here.

Directions

1.  Ahead of time, maybe in the morning (or at least an hour ahead) press the tofu.  You can use any technique you like, but I placed a towel on a plate, then paper towels on top of that, sandwiched the tofu between more paper towels, then another plate, and stacked cans of beans on top.

2.  Cut the tofu into the strips.

3.  Marinated the tofu using Liquid Smoke and a little bit of Tamari sauce (like a soy sauce, without the salty flavor).  I let it marinate for about 30 minutes, but I’m sure it would only improve if it sat longer.

4.  Next, I tried a great tip that I found at delish.com, I tossed the marinated tofu strips with about 1/2 a cup of cornstarch before pan frying it.  It helps create a crispy outer coating.  Pan fry the tofu until all the sides turn a golden brown.

Sriracha Tofu | A Vegan in Progress

Spread any kind of hummus on a tortilla, add the Sriracha, and roll up.  This is the lazy version, but I bet the recipe would be even better with some greens.

Sriracha Tofu Wrap | A Vegan in Progress

Vegan at Disneyland – California Adventure’s Lucky Fortune Cookery

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, Sammi, decided to get an Annual Pass and came to Disneyland with us this weekend for her first visit in a long time.

We decided to go to Lucky Fortune Cookery in California Adventure this time, since I hadn’t yet had a chance to try it.  It’s in the Pacific Wharf area along with many other restaurants.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Exterior | A Vegan in Progress

They offer Asian rice bowls, each with steamed rice and seared Asian vegetables.  First you choose your protein, then you choose your sauce.  The fact that they offer both tofu and meat options makes this a good place to go with others that allows everyone to get what they want.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Menu board | A Vegan in Progress

Sammi is vegan too, so we agreed to order difference sauces so we could try both.  She ordered a tofu bowl with Spicy Korean sauce and I got a tofu bowl with Teriyaki sauce.  We realized later that we may have been able to ask them to substitute brown rice, since they offer it in their kid’s meals.

The Spicy Korean sauce was flavorful, but a little too spicy for my taste – and I usually like things spicy!  Sammi really liked it, she has a higher tolerance.

The Teriyaki sauce was just as flavorful with a little less heat, but still on the spicy side.  It was my preference.  I didn’t think it had quite enough sauce.  Sammi thought hers had enough sauce, but it could have been because it was so spicy that she appreciated a little plain rice in there to cool off her tongue.

Both of them came out piping hot and perfectly cooked.  The used silken tofu, which isn’t my favorite – I like it a little firmer.  We were given pretty good portions, but when compared to gumbo in an edible bread bowl, it seemed a little expensive.  It was originally $10.49, but after a Premium Annual Passport holder discount, it came to only $9.63 including tax.

I would eat here again to break up my habit of ordering Veggie Gumbo from Royal Street Veranda, which remains my favorite.  However, I did prefer this meal over the N’awlins Vegetable Ragout from Cafe Orleans, which is more expensive.

More reviews to come as I try different dishes around the parks!

Vegan Recipe – Tofu Vindaloo with Cauliflower Rice

This recipe came together out of fate.  I happened to have most of the necessary ingredients on hand and stumbled upon Archer Farms Vindaloo sauce at Target that looked good.  I love Indian food and had been looking for a reason to try cauliflower rice that didn’t scare me.  Cauliflower just smells so – cauliflowery – that I’ve been reluctant to try it with anything other than a fragrant sauce that smothers it.  I also had some tofu on hand and have never tried to prepare if any way other than as a filling, like in my Stuffed Shells Recipe.

This was very simple to make, but very hot!  Eric couldn’t take a full serving.  It was my fault for buying Hot Vindaloo sauce, but I’m pretty sure the jar I originally picked up said Medium and, somehow, after looking at the ingredients in the Vindaloo as well as the ingredients in Tikka Masala sauce, I accidentally bought the jar of Hot.  I’m thinking that I will pick up a jar of Medium or Mild next time I’m at Target and I will look for a good slow cooker vindaloo recipe so that I can cook everything but the tofu all day and pan-fry and add the tofu before serving.

Tofu Vindaloo | A Vegan in Progress

HOW TO MAKE CAULIFLOWER RICE (adapted slightly from this link):This is so freaking simple, it made me wonder why I never made it before.

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1.  Cut cauliflower head into florets… I used about a third of a head of cauliflower.

2.  Pulse fresh cauliflower in food processor until it is all about the size of bulgar (or rice).  You could also shred it with a cheese grater (but I’m not sure a lot of vegans would have that in their kitchens).

3.  Microwave in a covered dish (I cracked the lid on the dish slightly to let the steam out and microwaved it for about 2 minutes).  DO NOT ADD WATER.

HOW TO MAKE THE VINDALOO:

Tofu Vindaloo | A Vegan in Progress

     Ingredients
–  One can of chickpeas
–  One bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
–  One can of chopped tomatoes
–  One container of tofu
–  A few tablespoons of Liquid Smoke
–  A couple of tablespoons of Tamari sauce

Directions

1.  First, cut the tofu into the strips.

2.  Ahead of time, maybe in the morning (or at least an hour ahead) press the tofu.  You can use any technique you like, but I placed a towel on a plate, then paper towels on top of that, sandwiched the tofu between more paper towels, then another plate, and stacked cans of beans on top.

Pan-Fried Tofu | A Vegan in Progress 3.  After pressing the tofu, I marinated it.  I didn’t want a marinade that would compete with the Vindaloo, so I used Liquid Smoke and a little bit of Tamari sauce (like a soy sauce, without the salty flavor).  I let it marinate for about 30 minutes, but I’m sure it would only improve if it sat longer.

4.  Next, I tried a great tip that I found at delish.com, I tossed the marinated tofu strips with about 1/2 a cup of cornstarch before pan frying it.  It helps create a crispy outer coating.  Pan fry the tofu until all the sides turn a golden brown.

5.  Cook the tomatoes, chickpeas, and bell pepper for a little bit in a large skillet (maybe 5 minutes).

6.  Add the Vindaloo sauce and simmer for a few more minutes until the bell peppers soften a bit.

7.  Add tofu, mix all ingredients, and serve over cauliflower rice.

I originally made the mistake of adding the tofu too soon, so it looked and smelled amazing when it went into the skillet, but was a lot softer when served.  It still tasted amazing, but next time I will follow the directions I posted above.

I served it with green beans and Trader Joe’s Tandoori Garlic Naan Bread.

Go ahead and give it a try if you come across the Archer Farms Vindaloo sauce at Target or something like it.

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!