One of the biggest misconceptions about vegan eating is that you will need to give up all or most of the foods you love. Luckily, there are vegan alternatives for pretty much anything you can think of. My favorite vegan meatball substitute is Nate's Meatless Meatballs - Zesty Italian Flavor. I also like to make my own using lentils, almond flour, and ground flax, but those taste much less like the real thing so they are not as good for people craving meatballs. Although many store bought marinara sauces contain dairy products, there are plenty that do not. Before buying a marinara sauce I'd also recommend looking at the ingredients and buying the one with the least salt, sugar, and oil. The healthiest option of course is always to make your own! I took a look at a bottle of Ragu my abuelita had bought to see that it has 10 grams of sugar per serving! As far as parmesan goes, you can always use nutritional yeast, or a variety of ground up nut options. in the case of the photo below I used Go Veggie! Parmesan which I think tastes the most like dairy parmesan. I bought the container months ago and still haven't used it all yet. It's amazing how after giving up dairy I seem to have forgotten how I used to use cheese. It's much easier to give up than you would think :)
The Counter is a burger chain that surprisingly has great options for vegans. Their vegan veggie burger is made in house and is quite good - it has rice, beans, corn, and a variety of other whole foods in it. It is one of my favorite burgers I've ever had.
At the counter you pick what type of patty you would like and you pick which toppings you would like. I always have my patty over a bed of lettuce rather than on a bun and choose the other lettuce options as toppings. Here you can find a list of what toppings, sauces, etc. are vegan, gluten-free, etc. In addition to the main course, I like to get sweet potato fries with BBQ sauce. many of the dipping sauces are not vegan but the wait staff is very knowledgable if you have not checked out the dietary guidelines before hand.
If you're ever looking for a place to go where meat lovers and vegans will both enjoy their meal I'd highly recommend The Counter!
After enjoying my meal at Sage Culver City so much I wanted to go back for another meal soon. I suggested to my friends Nicole and Dante and that we meet up at Sage Echo Park for dinner. They both agreed and to my surprise, neither of them had been before. They were both very excited to be introduced to a great new restaurant and will be going back soon :).
Dante ordered the potato broccoli pirogues and was impressed. Since he has had pirogues all over Europe, his rave reviews were even more impressive. I tasted a bite and was a fan as well, I was surprised by how much it tasted like Sage's famous ravioli.
Nicole ordered the white wine herb reduction linguine. Nicole greatly enjoyed her dish and her first vegan restaurant! I liked the linguine but not quite as much as I've enjoyed other dishes at Sage as it didn't have quite as much flavor.
I ordered the chipotle burger which ended being my favorite of the three entrees we ordered. It had a delicious blueberry sauce and was very sweet - perfect for a sweet tooth. I am thrilled that both Nicole and Dante enjoyed Sage so much and were excited to have found a new restaurant to frequent :).
After posting about so many restaurant meals I want to post a picture of a meal I have on a weekly basis. Because my abuelita almost always has fresh cooked pinto beans and brown rice (made with bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and onions) prepared I've come up with a variety ways of turning them into meals. One of my favorites is mixing them with romaine lettuce and corn and topping them with guacamole to make a "taco salad". It reminds me of a healthier version of the Chipotle salad bowls. You can of course throw in any additional veggies you have on hand as well. When I pack it for lunch at work I pack the lettuce in a bag and the premixed toppings in a tupperware so I can prepare the freshest possible salad on the go.
Every time I go to Santa Monica I make it a point to go to Viva La Vegan, an all vegan grocery store. As helpful as the Is It Vegan App is, it cannot compare with not having to read a label to know if an item is vegan. The store has quite a variety of items ranging from biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes to vegan seafood. In addition to veganized versions of meat products, Viva La Vegan has the healthiest options around for many packaged goods such as cashew butter that only contains cashews - something I have been trying to find for awhile.
In my opinion, Field Roast, makes the best tasting vegan fake meat products. All of their items are sold at Viva La Vegan and their products are increasingly sold at major sports stadiums! I'd highly recommend the apple sage sausage in particular.
Although I don't bake exclusively gluten free, I often do and greatly appreciate the wide variety gluten free flours and other baking items available at Viva La Vegan. During this past trip I bought white rice flour so I can make sweet potato caramel chocolate chip blondies. I really appreciate how often vegan stores, vegan bloggers, and vegan restaurants are very cognizant of food allergies.
My favorite restaurant to visit when I am back in the Bay Area is Delicious Crepes Bistro in Santa Clara. It is a vegetarian restaurant but has many delicious vegan options including all of their three types of crepes (whole wheat, gluten free fusion, and buckwheat). This time I ordered the avocado crepe which comes with avocado, carrot, tomato, spinach, onion and tahini sauce. The crepe was great and best of all I had enough left overs for lunch. Delicious Crepes Bistro has the only crepes I've had that are made big enough to have leftovers - much appreciated!
If crepes aren't your thing, they are a variety of other options available including award winning vegan baked goods. This is the second time I ate at Delicious Crepes Bistro with my dad and both times he ordered the Acai Power Bowl. I didn't try it but he has ordered it multiple times and enjoyed it so it must be good!
I recently made my first batch of vegan french toast and it did not turn out well - the bread would not cook through. I'm pretty sure that the problem was that the bred was too thin and the batter has too many banana pieces in it so it Needless to say, when I got a recommendation for the french toast at Real Food Daily, I was eager to try it. Real Food Daily is an organic, vegan restaurant that appeals to vegans and non-vegans alike. They offer many great dishes but this time I went for the brunch menu. The french toast was light, fluffy, and had a bit of a pumpkin flavor. Here's to hoping my next batch turns out more like theirs!
I had a celebrity vegan spotting during my meal as well, Tobey Maguire, his wife Jennier Meyer, and their two children!
Sage Vegan Bistro is one of my favorite restaurants in LA and until this past weekend I had only been to the Echo Park location. The Culver City location has an entire pizza menu that the Echo Park location does not have which I was especially interested in trying out. he Culver City location was also much more spacious and had a beautiful outdoor patio. I ordered the heirloom tomato garlic pizza on buckwheat crust which had housemade hemp seed pesto, heirloom tomato, chopped garlic drizzles with cashew alfredo and topped with fresh basil. Because of the experience I've had with vegan cheeses in the past I chose to order a pizza that had a cashew based cheese so I knew I would like it. The best part of the pizza was the delicious tomatoes.
When I walked in I saw that the special of the day was peach cobbler (my favorite food of all time) so I ordered that as well. I had the choice of what flavor of ice cream to get and because I find Kind Kreme (the brand of ice cream Sage serves) to be icy, I went with soft serve. The soft serve was a perfect choice and the cobbler was incredible!
Today was the first annual NationBuilder Olympics and a great time was had by all! The whole day was filled with activities but my two favorite were the cookie competition and the lunch. Our event planner/coordinator asked for my advice planning the vegetarian and vegan options which I greatly appreciated. She took my advice and got Doomie's as the vegatarian/vegan option for our BBQ lunch. We had vegan pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, and mac and cheese.
The vegan pulled pork was even better than any pulled pork I remember having because it didn't have any fatty taste. The mac and cheese was a huge hit with vegans and non-vegans alike - in fact, many omnivores came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed it :). The potato salad was good but nothing out of the ordinary. I was very appreciative to see the thoughtfulness that went into having vegan options at our Olympics.
On to the cookie contest! I've been a huge fan of baking my whole life and was thrilled that we were having a cookie contest at work. After some deliberation I decided on white chocolate cashew butter cookies Every time I make the recipe I was reminded of how great they are so I was excited to make them for the contest. I do not usually bake with brown sugar but I made an exception for the contest as I knew it would increase my odds of winning. I am thrilled to report that I ended up winning the contest! I love that a vegan, gluten-free cookie won the contest and that a paleo cookie was another favorite. Just goes to show how you do not need eggs, butter, white flour, or refined sugar to make great cookies!
My friend David and I made black bean sweet potato enchiladas for dinner tonight. The recipe called for tomatillo salsa but we had my abuelita's homemade red salsa on hand so we used that instead. We used garlic and onion powder instead of fresh garlic to make the recipe easier and used curry powder instead of cumin. Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the meal and look forward to making it again soon. Having now made the enchiladas with both green salsa and red I can't say I prefer one over the other - both provide a unique added flavor. Last time I made this recipe, Joel and I made it for a twenty person group and they were very popular. If you're looking for a gluten-free, vegan, crowd pleasing main meal I'd highly recommend these!