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Organix, Eagle Rock

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I had recently heard of Organix via an Instagram post from Vegan Fat Kid.  The burgers looked amazing, so I made a mental note to try it sometime soon.  Eric and I went to see his mom in Echo Park and stopped in Eagle Rock to pick up some Organix to go.  It’s a seriously tiny restaurant in a small market, so we picked up a few things to try and some nacho cheeze sauce I had been craving.

I ordered the Castro burger, described as, “our Mildly Spicy Signature Burger made from Butternut Squash, Black Beans, Quinoa, Pumpkin Seeds, Oats and many herbs and spices, spicy jalapeno cheese, Grilled Onions and our signature house made Chipotle Aoli, Lettuce and Tomato on a wheat bun.”  It was a little messy, but very good.  I loved how the elements in the burger worked together.  The spiciness and cheesiness were really my favorite parts.

Organix - Castro Burger | A Vegan in Progress

Eric ordered the Southern Belle, “Battered and Panko Fried Vegan Chicken Patty, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy on a Potato Bun.”  I stole a bite and found it really tasty.  He loved it – mashed potatoes, gravy, this was right up his alley!

Organix - Southern Belle | A Vegan in ProgressThe fries were a little soggy due to the 20 minute drive from the restaurant to my in-laws, but were seasoned well.

We also got some zucchini fries…

zucchini friesAnd the vegan chicken tenders

Chicken fingersOverall, it was a really tasty meal and the staff (I think it was the owner, actually) was really friendly.  I will definitely be back.

Chilled Dark Chocolate Pie and Cranberry-Raspberry Compote

So, it has been a really long time since I have posted.  During my pregnancy, I just overwhelmingly didn’t feel like posting anything.  Now, of course, with a 4 month old, I have very little time to write anything.  In the beginning, I was sleeping while she slept, like everyone suggests, but these days I try to get stuff done or get ready for work while she’s sleeping.  While she’s awake, though, I want nothing more than to stare at her little beautiful face and blow raspberries on her little baby belly.  She’s such a doll and I’m so happy to have her in my life.  She’s got such a personality and is generally a very, very happy and very perceptive baby.  We are really very lucky.

Charlotte | A Vegan in Progress

I happen to have this week off (my office is closed), so I thought I would try to get my momentum back.

I made this Oh She Glows Chilled Dark Chocolate Pie for this past Thanksgiving and it was so popular with my family that it was requested I make it again for Christmas.  Luckily for me, it’s pretty simple, especially with a tweak for the lazy.  I simply got store-bought pie crust from the frozen section (they came two to a package – more pie!) rather than making my own.  This pie is very likely the best vegan dessert I have ever had, let alone made myself!  Don’t let the coconut cream scare you away if you aren’t a huge coconut fan.  It’s not the overwhelming flavor of the dessert – that would be yummy, yummy chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Pie | A Vegan in Progress

Rather than make the strawberry vanilla compote from the Oh She Glows website that I’m sure is delicious, I felt that a cranberry-raspberry compote would be more fitting for the season.  I did a quick google search, then chose a recipe that looked the easiest (that’s usually how I work) and ended up with this one originally from Bon Appetit.  I would make this 100 times over – it was that good.

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

Food Lab, Silverlake

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Eric and I were visiting his mom this weekend and decided to go out and pick up food.  They are always very gracious and willing to stop at more than one place so I can get something vegan and satisfying.  The great thing about their neighborhood is that there are so many vegan and vegan-friendly cafes in the Echo Park/Silverlake area.  I think I’m going to try a different place each time we are in this situation.

FoodLab is a vegan-friendly restaurant, so it’s a great place to take non-vegans as well.  It’s very cute, but small, like pretty much every Silverlake cafe.

FoodLab, Silverlake | A Vegan in Progress

I ordered the Vegan Sandwich, which is described as hummus, roasted veggies, and dried tomato with basil pesto on 5 grain bread.  From what I could tell, the veggies included eggplant, mushrooms, squash, bell peppers, and zucchini.  I am not a big fan of squash and I just don’t like zucchini, but the sandwich was still delicious.  I loved that it was grilled on a panini press and the 5 grain bread was perfect.  I only ate half, and Eric had the other half later that night and he liked it as well.

This photo was taken at Eric’s mom’s house.  Their presentation is a lot prettier in FoodLab, but we got it to go.

The reason I could only eat half of the sandwich is because I also got 8 oz. of their cous cous salad which was basically cous cous and veggies.  It was so fresh and delicious – the salad was my favorite part of a good meal.FoodLab - Cous Cous Salad | A Vegan in Progress

There’s only one other vegan sandwich at FoodLab, the Garden Sandwich, which is described as hummus, avocado, watercress, tomato, cucumber, and carrot on 5 grain.  There are also two vegan salads (see this menu, the vegan items are noted with a U).  So it’s not a place with a huge amount of vegan options, but it’s tasty and a good place to take non-vegans.  I also liked that their website states “we are proud to announce that our eat-ware, ranging from plates, cutlery, cups, and packaging are 80% environmentally friendly and biodegradable. It is extremely important to us to be a leader in keeping this planet clean and beautiful, and therefore have made every effort in finding items that are not only attractive but also harmless.”

Easy Vegan Pot Pie

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I haven’t been cooking a lot lately.  The main reason is that I’m pregnant and, in case you haven’t heard, pregnant women can be lazy.  I’m sure that women who are raising children while pregnant just fight through the nausea and exhaustion because they have kids to take care of, but I’m not there yet.  A full work day or even a long day of shopping makes me just want to lay on the couch for hours before finally going to bed.  Eric has been really great about taking care of me and picking up food to go because most of the time I feel like doing nothing.  However, I’ve been feeling pretty guilty for all my laziness and I understand the importance of cooking in advance so that I have food ready to just warm up when I’m feeling famished.

I searched Pinterest for interesting, but easy-looking recipes.  I have always loved pot pie.  I love the combination of the veggies, flaky pastry, and gravy-like filling.  So, when I saw this “Cheater” Vegetable Pot Pie, I decided to give it a try.  I left out the mushrooms because I don’t like those and I added a little vegan chicken bouillon for flavor and some of Trader Joe’s vegan grilled “chicken” strips.  I liked the recipe a lot, the only problem was how bland the filling was.  The non-dairy milk, flour, and veggie broth mixture definitely needed some major seasoning like vegan gravy might have.  We ended up just adding a lot of salt as we ate.

We will definitely make this recipe again, just trying some different ingredients using trial and error.

Easy Vegan Pot Pie | A Vegan in Progress

Pot Pie Filling

Pot Pie Filling

The slightly edited recipe below makes 7-8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch kale, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan butter
  • 2 red potatoes, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • half cup of non-dairy milk (I used almond)
  • 2/3 cup frozen sweet peas
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry crust, thawed and rolled out (Pepperidge Farm is vegan)
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan chicken bouillon
  • Trader Joe’s vegan grilled “chicken” strips – use however much you like

Directions:

  1. Water saute the onion, kale, and carrots for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the butter, potatoes, bell pepper, and celery and cover with the heat on medium/low for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir the flour into the veggie mix, mixing until it’s all combined, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour in the veggie broth, almond milk, and vegan chicken bouillon.  Keep stirring until there are no flour lumps, then bring to a simmer.  It’ll start to thicken up in about 4-5 minutes.  Add the frozen peas, then remove from heat.
  5. Add Trader Joe’s vegan grilled “chicken” strips and a bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, then stir.  Spray your 8 x 8 baking dish with some non-stick spray, then pour in your delicious veggie mixture. (I ended up making a couple of smaller individual pot pies and one larger one to share – this recipe makes a lot!)
  6. Cover with your puff pastry and cut slits in the top to vent.  Bake at 375 until the crust is golden brown, 15-20 minutes (or maybe more depending on  your oven).  Let cool for a few minutes, then serve.

Exciting News

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It has been well over a month since I have posted anything and there’s a good reason.  I am three months pregnant!  Eric and I decided we were ready and succeeded on the first try!  This is our first baby and the first grandchild on both sides, so it’s a very exciting event for everyone.  My first trimester was a little rough.  I had a lot of fatigue, nausea, and heartburn, but I’m starting to feel much better.  I was coming home from work every day, throwing together some kind of meal, then laying down on the couch and staying there pretty much all evening.  I hadn’t felt the drive to write at all, so the blog has been quiet.  I plan to step it up now while I still can, before the third trimester and the arrival of our little munchkin, when I’ll have no time whatsoever.

Oh, and an important note.  When talking with my Certified Nurse Midwife about eating healthy during the pregnancy, I told her I was vegan and she was very pleased to hear it.  She kept saying that I was eating a very healthy diet, so all should be well.  I did admit I had been eating a lot of bread lately, because it helps settle my stomach.  She told me that the first trimester is pretty much a free pass because you eat what you can.  All blood tests so far have come out great – further confirmation that a vegan diet is nothing but healthy.

Anyway, that’s my news!  I’ll report back on being vegan while pregnant!

Native Foods, Costa Mesa + Native Foods, Santa Monica

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I have already talked about Native Foods, but I thought that I could do multiple reviews of restaurants as I make subsequent visits.  Click here to see previous posts about Native Foods.

Every Spring, my parents and I make a joint appointment with our accountant to take care of some tax preparation.  They have been seeing the same accountant since I was a kid and used to play on the floor of his office during the appointments.  We always make lunch plans while we are in the area and last year we went to VegiLicious All Natural Vegan Cafe.  While we loved VegiLicious, we decided to try something different.  We had made plans to go to Seabirds Kitchen, but at the last minute, I listed some items on the Native Foods menu and my dad was pumped to try it.  The Native Foods in Costa Mesa is located in a shopping center called “The CAMP.”  It was so cute how every parking space had a little message of affirmation painted on it.

There were a lot of eco-friendly stores, restaurants, juice bars, and other cute establishments.  I really wish we had more time before our appointment to explore.

To start, we shared the Butternut Polenta Bites, “pesto baked polenta topped with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions and toasted pumpkin seeds in balsamic over arugula.”  They were tasty, although a little tough to eat without making a mess.

Butternut Polenta Bites - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

I ordered the Twister Wrap with Crispy Native Chicken.  I had been eyeing it on my last few visits and I was excited to try it.  It was perfect.  I could eat that weekly if I had the budget.  I also got my favorite Lavender Lemonade.

Twister Wrap with Crispy Native Chicken - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

My dad ordered the Bistro Steak Sandwich and got a cup of the Watermelon Fresca.

.Bistro Steak Sandwich - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

My mom ordered the Southwest Chipotle Chop and really enjoyed it.

Southwest Chipotle Chop - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

I don’t see how we can get away with trying a new restaurant next year, because they both really loved Native Foods.

I popped into the bathroom before leaving and saw that they use Further soap, distilled from the waste grease from their kitchen.  That’s so clever, I don’t know why more places don’t do it.

Further Soap - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

Native Foods is consistently yummy.  I just wish there was one in the Valley!

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On another visit to the Native Foods in Santa Monica, I ordered the Yo Amigo Taco Salad with guacamole.  It was delicious and totally hit the spot after recovering from a quick bout of the flu.  Bonus:  this Native Foods location is one block from Viva La Vegan Grocery.

Yo Amigo Taco Salad with avocado - Native Foods, Santa Monica | A Vegan in Progress

Tofurky Italian Sausage vs. Field Roast Italian Sausage

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Tofurky and Field Roast are big names in meat alternatives, both offering a variety of flavors of vegan sausages.  I have always been a fan of Tofurky’s Italian sausages, but on a recent trip to the Follow Your Heart market, I wondered if that was only because Tofurky was available at most grocery stores.  I decided to test the theory and pick up a package of Field Roast Italian Sausages.

Italian Sausages comparison2

One weekend morning, I cooked up a bowl of both, along with some red bell pepper.

Italian Sausages comparison

All of the Field Roast Italian Sausages were individually wrapped and I could immediately see why.  They were pretty delicate and came apart a bit as you can see in the photo above.

Italian Sausages

Here’s a photo of the sausages cooked and looking quite tasty.  My opinion was that the Field Roast sausages were heartier and more meaty and would probably be great crumbled up and used in a dish.  I still favor the Tofurky sausages, though.  They were easier to keep together when cooking and had more of an Italian flavoring.  Don’t go by my opinion, though… give them a try because everyone’s tastes are different.

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood

For my birthday this year, I told my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law that I would love to go out for lunch.  I had suggested a place with both vegan and omnivore options, but after some research, my mother-in-law very thoughtfully suggested Gracias Madre.  Gracias Madre is a 100% vegan restaurant that began in San Francisco and recently opened another location in West Hollywood.

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood | A Vegan in Progress

My first impression was that the restaurant was really pretty – very light and airy.  It was a beautiful LA day, so the restaurant was open to the patio.  The seating was very comfortable, with a variety of benches and chairs at every table, and it wasn’t too crowded.  We were seated on the patio.

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood | A Vegan in Progress

We were offered a water as well as sparkling water and were brought a carafe of both.  It took a while to order and I think it was for a couple of reasons.  For me, I’m not used to being able to order literally anything on a menu, but for Eric’s family, I think it was a little foreign for them to be navigating a vegan menu.

We started with a couple of appetizers – the Gorditas and the Papas al Horno.  The Gorditas, described as “potato-masa cakes topped with warm salsa verde, avocado, and cashew crema,” were wonderful.  I loved the potato-masa cakes and the toppings were very fresh.  The Papas al Horno, described as “roasted potatoes with olive oil and garlic topped with chipotle cashew nacho cheese,” were cooked well and tasted fine, but not worth ordering them again unless you love potatoes with cheese.

I ordered a Tamal because I have always loved tamales and don’t get to have them often since they aren’t usually vegan.  Their tamal is a “stoneground heirloom masa steamed in the husk filled with sautéed butternut squash, poblano peppers and onions, served with beans and escabeche.”  The tamal was the right texture, with flavorful filling, but there wasn’t enough of it.  Mostly, I tasted masa and the salsa I topped the tamal with.  The beans that accompanied it, though, were creamy and delicious.  My sister-in-law ordered the same thing and liked the dish as well.

Eric got the Enchiladas con Mole, “spicy mole enchiladas topped with mushrooms and cashew cheese, served with sautéed greens and beans.”  He absolutely loved them and let me have a bite.  I’m definitely not a fan of mole in regular circumstances, I don’t really understand using cinnamon and chocolate in a savory sauce.  However, this stuff was amazing!  I could taste every little thing in the sauce, kind of like when I had a bowl of Emeril Lagasse’s gumbo from his Steakhouse in my pre-vegan days.  Next time we go to Gracias Madre, I may order this dish for myself!

My mother-in-law got the tacos, “three corn tortillas topped with seared cauliflower, grilled calabaza verde, and mushrooms. Topped with cashew crema, served with beans.”  I had a bite and thought that they were very tasty, but I’m not a huge fan of mushroom texture.  However, I think I might order these in the future, they were that good.

My grandmother-in-law ordered the El Plato, which was a little of everything and came with tortillas.  The menu describes it as “butternut squash, cashew nacho cheese, plantains, cilantro pesto, escabeche, rice, pico de gallo and beans.”  She really enjoyed her fresh and plentiful dish.

Overall, I was very impressed with Gracias Madre.  The service was very good and timely throughout the meal and the food was all very fresh and well-prepared.  The prices were also decent for the upscale feel of the restaurant.  Despite having ordered fresh-squeezed juices and appetizers for a party of five, we spent only about $30 more than the time that three of us dined at Mohawk Bend.  I will definitely be back to Gracias Madre!

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.