Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eating for Pregnancy

I just returned from a trip to Los Angeles, where I visited some of my favorite eateries: M Cafe de Chaya, for almond croissants, kale lemonade, and vegan Benedict, Happy Family, for all-you-can-eat vegan Chinese, Babycakes, for cupcakes, Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine, for the best Yemiser Kik Wot anywhere, and Madeleine Bistro, where I had a tasting menu which included their signature Red Beet Tartare and incredible French Lentil Salad. Whew!

While I love a bit of dietary decadence, I'm happy to get back to eating a bit more simply, particularly since I'm nourishing a growing baby.

During my first pregnancy, I took a lengthy hiatus from blogging. I was writing a cookbook, moving across the country at 7 months pregnant, and I felt very private about the whole experience. But while I stayed insular, I scoured the internet for blogs, articles, anything on being vegan and pregnant. It felt like such uncharted territory, and I wanted to learn everything.

This time, I want to share some of what I'm doing, eating, and planning. I'll be eating a mostly raw (and of course, completely vegan) diet, and although I'm very familiar with raw food, it wasn't such a big part of my last pregnancy. The first time, I had been eating high protein for pregnancy, about 100 grams per day (60 is recommended), and had a homebirth with my 9 pound 4 ounce, nearly 22-inch baby. While I'm really proud of that very healthy and strapping child, I'm taking a slightly different nutritional approach this time: focusing on getting an abundance of greens, fruit, and other vitamin-and-mineral-rich foods. Here's what I've been eating lately:

Sunflower Avocado Nori Wraps, packed with mineral-rich greens

Lots and lots of greens. In green smoothies, in gigantic salads, and tucked into everything from soups to the nori wrap above. This is one of my favorite salads, and a great source of vitamin E, iron, and healthy fats:

Joy's Favorite Salad
1 very, very large or 4 regular servings

8-10 cups spring greens
1 cup shredded carrots
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
a quarter of a red onion, thinly sliced
half an avocado, cubed
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup daikon, alfalfa, or radish sprouts
a few tablespoons Agave Mustard Poppyseed Dressing

In a giant bowl, mound everything over the greens in the order listed, and drizzle with dressing. Eat immediately.

Note: While raw sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins and amino acids, they are not recommended for pregnant women due to the risk of salmonella contamination. I grow my own, and am confident they're safe, but consider forgoing them if you're pregnant.

Green Garden Gazpacho, with fresh pea shoots

Fresh soups. Through the first trimester, all I could stand were heavy, fatty daals and Thai curries. Now, things have lightened up, and I'm gravitating toward raw soups like Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho and tomato-based blends.

Raw Fetuccine Alfredo, with cashew cream and zucchini noodles

Raw dishes with healthy fats, like Jalapeño Carrot Croquetas, nut-and-seed loaves, and raw crackers topped with avocado. Avocado and young coconuts are my favorite fats, and I include raw almonds, cashews, and chia seeds in our daily Vanilla Milk. I've been partial to pumpkin seeds and hempseeds this week, too.

Vanilla Bean Macaroons, in plain, cacao, and cacao chip

I'm also enjoying lots of fresh fruit and raw sweets. This morning, I made a Caramel Coconut Chia Porridge, which was so good, I ate three bowls of it. I try to bring some kind of raw bar or brownie, as well as a few bananas or dates when I'm out, because healthy foods are often scarce and I sometimes need to eat right away. At home, I'll have a whole watermelon or half a pineapple as a hydrating snack, and I'm really enjoying grapefruit sprinkled with sea salt lately.

I've been doing lots of baking for my family and friends too, so I'll have a few bites of muffin or cookie when they're fresh from the oven. Eating lots of raw food during pregnancy isn't a restrictive thing for me; it's simply about doing whatever makes me feel the most alive, and gives me plenty of energy to chase a toddler and grow a healthy baby.

So far, it's working!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Coconut Peanut Butter Bars

I was recently inspired by Allison's Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Coconut Candy over at manifest: vegan, and decided I wanted a piece. But this piece had to be really simple. And with very little sugar. And still taste good.

Enter: four little ingredients (well, five, but I don't usually count the sea salt) and a food processor. Easy. Healthy. Really delicious. They take only a few minutes to put together, and if you're packing them for travel--as I am--just skip the chocolate and wrap them in waxed paper or plastic.

And did I mention economical? I made this batch, all organic, for less than $3.

Coconut Peanut Butter Bars
12 or 16 bars

Chocolate is delicate, so be nice to it. This method is a variation on quick tempering, and gently melts it to a drizzling consistency in a double boiler (I just use a sturdy bowl placed over a pan of simmering water). Heat the chocolate to a temperature that's still comfortable to the touch, and let it rest; the unmelted pieces will keep the temperature from getting too high. Or skip the fuss altogether, and melt it in the microwave with a bit of coconut oil or other fat to provide insulation for chocolate's fragility.

3/4 cup dried shredded coconut
3/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
very generous pinch sea salt
1 cup pitted dates
3 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped, or dark chocolate chips

Line a 9" x 5" or 9" x 4" loaf pan with plastic wrap, and set aside.

In a food processor, combine coconut, peanuts, and sea salt until ground into what looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Take care not to over process; the mixture will appear oily if this happens. Add dates, and continue processing until the mixture begins to come together and any bits of date are very small.

Tumble mixture into prepared pan, pressing well and smoothing the top for an even surface (I like the back of a spoon for this). Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and up to 30.

Meanwhile, in a double boiler on the stove, gently heat chocolate until just melted. There may be a few pieces of chocolate remaining; allow it to sit for a moment, and everything will smooth out. Transfer to a pastry bag or plastic bag with a tiny corner clipped off, and set aside.

Remove pan from refrigerator, and ease the bars out using the plastic overhang. With a sharp knife, cut into 12 or 16 bars, and place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Using a zigzag pattern (or whatever you like), drizzle with melted chocolate. Allow to sit until set, 30 minutes-1 hour, or just eat with the chocolate still melty.

These are delicious with a big glass of almond milk.

Note: While I've labeled this recipe as soy-free, semisweet chocolate often contains a very small amount of soy lecithin as an emulsifier. If you are allergic or very sensitive to soy (or are serving this to someone who is), please check labels carefully.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jalapeño Carrot Croquetas with Mango Corn Relish

Croquetas are simply the Spanish name for croquettes, which are really just fried patties (but don't croquetas sound a lot nicer?). This raw version skips the frying in favor of a coating of crunchy seeds and some dehydrating, but if you don't have a dehydrator, it's not necessary; just form and eat them as they are.

Left moist, they have a fresh flavor with a slight tang, and make a great pâte for spreading on vegetables or raw crackers. Dehydrated, their taste becomes more neutral, perfect for the addition of more piquant toppings. You can even bake the mixture as a loaf and top with salsa, if you like. Kids love to help form shapes and get fantastically messy with it, so grab a nearby child and enlist them to help, too!

Serve the croquetas with spicy-tart Mango Corn Relish, wrapped in romaine lettuce leaves or nestled in salad greens. They're also excellent formed into burger-sized patties, on a sprouted grain bun topped with the relish and slices of avocado and red onion.

Jalapeño Carrot Croquetas
2 dozen croquetas
The easiest way to get carrot carrot pulp is to use leftovers from juicing. If you don't have a juicer, process 6-8 medium carrots in a food processor until almost pulpy, and strain through a clean kitchen towel or nutmilk bag (a paint strainer works great for this), squeezing thoroughly. Drink the juice that results, and use the remaining pulp in the recipe.

You can use any combination of nuts and seeds for the almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. To prepare them, cover with water for 2-4 hours, and drain. Rinse well, and drain again.

1 cup raw almonds, soaked
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, soaked
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked
4 sundried tomatoes, soaked to rehydrate (if dried)
1/2-1 Jalapeño pepper (depending on the spiciness you prefer), seeds and membranes removed
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups carrot pulp
1/4 cup packed cilantro, roughly chopped
hemp, chia, sesame, or poppy seeds, for rolling

In a food processor, combine nuts and seeds, sundried tomatoes, garlic, and sea salt until well mixed, scraping down the sides as necessary. The finished texture should be similar to that of a pâte. Transfer to a large bowl, and use your hands to mix in carrot pulp and cilantro.

Using your hands, take a golf ball-sized piece of the mixture. Gently roll in the palm of one hand, using the index finger and thumb of your other hand to flatten the top and bottom as you go. This will give you a cylindrical croqueta, or form it into whatever shape you like.

Roll the croqueta in seeds and serve, or dehydrate for 8-10 hours at 105 F. Serve with Mango Corn Relish, fresh greens, avocado, and lime wedges.

Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to a week.

Mango Corn Relish
about 2 cups

1 mango, diced into 1/2 squares
kernels from 1 cob of corn
1/4 cup packed cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 of a Jalapeño pepper, seeds and membranes removes
1 tablespoon diced red onion
juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Gently stir together all ingredients. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes for the flavors to meld. Serve with Jalapeno Carrot Croquetas, crudités, corn chips, or salad.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Last week, I put some chickpeas on the stove. I had a desperate craving for a chickpea salad sandwich (more on this in a minute) and, being out of the canned variety, and considering the amount of time involved to soak and cook legumes in mountain altitudes, I decided to use a quick-soaking method. Here, you cover chickpeas in water, bring them to a boil, and immediately turn off the heat before letting them sit for a few hours.

So I put the chickpeas on the stove, turned the heat to high, and left them there. I left them while my daughter and I snuggled with a book, I left them while we proceeded to take a nap. And an hour later, when I woke, perturbed to hear my daughter stir and announce sleepily, "mama, it stinks," I left every thought of chickpeas in a vacant corner of my head, and had absolutely no context for the odd odor seeping under my bedroom door.

Even when I opened the door to a thick, white wall of smoke, my first thoughts were someone has firebombed us! and why don't any of my three smoke detectors work? and not: chickpeas. It was only when, staring blankly into a sputtering, indiscernable mess on the stovetop (what was it, anyway? boba? black beans?), I realized that the smoke had something to do with me. I transferred a ruined All-Clad pan to the backyard, and started opening things up. Corraling two cats and a toddler would have been a good idea, but in my sleepy delirium, I just didn't think of it. There was still smoke pouring out of every window, seeping under every door.

Convinced one of the cats had escaped, I frantically searched the porch, then ran down the street, calling "Abra! Abra!" not stopping to notice the eyeliner smeared across my face, or the fact that I was braless and wearing my husband's undershirt, or that for some inexplicable reason, many of my neighbors had decided to congregate on their porches at 3:00 in the afternoon.

I usually do not conduct myself this way.

Half an hour later, we were all composed and safely in the house, which smelled only slightly less bad, and still does.

But there's a good reason for this, I promise. Because while my mind was far away from the burning chickpeas, it was dilligently occupied with another sort of chickpea. Or bean, or peanut, or a thousand other silly terms we use to talk about embryos and fetuses. I am pregnant. And sometime this Fall, our family expects to meet this chickpea person who incites a desire for very specific sandwiches and afternoon naps, and makes me want to leave things on the stove.

I am not much of a planner, and I suppose that's evident in this too. I wouldn't have planned on the fostering/adoption process and being pregnant, about to publish a cookbook, adding all sorts of new things at once. But when I find myself in the midst of it, the corners of my mouth turn involuntarily upward, and I cannot imagine a better life in the world.

But oh! back to those chickpeas. This was my intent, to make a simple Salmon-Safe Pâté and use it to fill slices of sprouted grain bread. This could be just a pregnancy thing, but I think you'll like it too. Note that this recipe calls for canned chickpeas, no stovetop required.

Salmon-Safe Pâté
about 2 cups
This recipe uses dulse, a type of seaweed prized for its high mineral content and intense flavor. If you can find it, applewood-smoked dulse from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables adds amazing flavor. Just break an 8"x 1" length into small pieces, and soak briefly in water before adding.

2 tablespoons dulse
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut roughly into chunks
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until well-combined, but not pureed. Transfer to a medium bowl, and refrigerate at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve as a sandwich filling, or with an assortment of vegetables. Celery and red bell pepper are particularly good at scooping it up.

Raw Salmon-Safe Pâté
Now that the nausea of early pregnancy has passed, and I'm eating more raw foods, this is the version I make often. Substitute a combination of 1 1/2 cups sunflower seeds and walnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours, for the chickpeas. Omit vegan mayonnaise. Process the mixture slightly longer, scraping down the sides often, until you reach a consistency that still has its texture, but isn't noticeably chunky with nuts and seeds.

Stuffed into a halved bell pepper or tomato and served atop salad greens, the raw version makes a perfect healthy lunch.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Perfect Pancakes

This is the thing to serve at 2:00 a.m., when friends have stumbled into your small apartment after an evening of imbibing. The pancakes are quick and easy to whisk together, even in a half-tipsy condition. And there’s a charming innocence in asking “Can I make you some pancakes?” that has the power to remove hours of alcohol-tinged debauchery. Eat them leaning against your kitchen sink and laughing, preferably with strong coffee.

And if you wake--a bit later than 2:00 a.m., I hope!--to a scene like this instead of a room full of bar-hopping friends:

Top the pancakes with blackberry sauce and Whipped Coconut Cream, or try one of the variations below, and serve leftovers wrapped around peanut butter and jelly.

To effortlessly release the pancakes before flipping, you’ll need a very thin metal spatula. It should be wide enough to slide under the pancake, and flexible for easy handling.

Buttermilk Pancakes
10-12 pancakes

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup non-dairy milk (I like almond)
½ cup coconut milk, soy creamer, or additional non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon agave nectar, maple syrup, or evaporated cane juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vegetable oil or vegetable oil spray, for pan

Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brush lightly with a teaspoon of vegetable oil or spray with a bit of vegetable oil spray.

In a bowl or 2-cup measure, combine remaining liquid ingredients, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry, and mix with a spatula, using a light hand to prevent tough pancakes. The batter will bubble up some; give it a good stir after this happens to dissipate any lumps.

Pour batter into prepared pan using a ½ cup measure, spreading it slightly. When bubbles begin to form and burst on top, slide a thin spatula underneath and release the pancake all around. It’s likely the cakes will stick a bit, but a quick loosening makes them manageable. Flip the cake, and continue to cook until slightly golden on the bottom, about one minute more.

Stack high on a plate, and serve warm, topped with syrup and smears of vegan margarine.

This batter makes excellent waffles with a crisp exterior and fluffy interior. Simply prepare as directed and cook in a waffle maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes or Waffles
Add 2/3 cup miniature chocolate chips with the dry mixture, tossing well to coat. Continue with recipe as directed.
These are particularly good—and very pretty—topped with raspberry jam and a dusting of cocoa powder.

Blueberry Pancakes
Gently rinse 1 cup fresh blueberries. Once the pancake has been poured into the pan, drop 8-10 blueberries directly into the batter. Wait for the bubbles to burst, then flip and continue to cook as directed.

Spiced Pear or Apple Pancakes
Peel and core 2 firm pears or apples. Slice the fruit crosswise into 1/4” thick rings, and toss them together in a bowl with: 1 tablespoon maple syrup, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg.

For the Blackberry Sauce pictured above: in a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, a pinch of sea salt, the juice of half a lemon, and a bit of sugar or other sweetener. This will vary widely depending on the sweetness of your berries, so start with 2 teaspoons, and add by the teaspoon, tasting as you go, until you reach the desired sweetness.

Bring to a gentle simmer, and cook until thickened slightly. Don't allow the sauce to bubble for too long, as blackberry seeds can impart a bitter taste.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vegan Road Trip, Part V: Santa Fe

For the final bit of our road trip, we're in Santa Fe for little more than a day. It's the last chance to stop at Trader Joe's before returning to Colorado (Candy Cane Joey Joe's! Brown Rice Marshmallow Treats! Inexpensive bagged greens!), and we make time for two vegan-friendly eateries before the trip. It's all been incredibly fun, traveling with a toddler and eating vegan along the way and living out of suitcases for a month. I can't wait to do it again!

Posa's El Merendero
For vegan tamales, this is the place. The filling is simple: zucchini, squash, red pepper, green chile and corn, encased in a masa shell and steamed. If you order from the restaurant, try them smothered in red chile (it's vegan), along with the beans and rice, which are also free of animal products. Not in Santa Fe? They also ship. If you don't have vegan tamales locally, these are definitely worth trying.
vegan-friendly tamales
Plaza Santa Fe location
3538 Zafarano #A2, near Albertsons
The Factory & Restaurant location
1514 Rodeo Road

perfect vegetables at Gabriel's

This Santa Fe restaurant serves Northern Mexican food (called "Old Mexican" by New Mexicans), which is exactly what I want after several meals of Tex-Mex style smothered burritos and roadside stops. It's located in a large adobe hacienda, with plenty of seating for families and alcoves for couples. The margaritas are simple and excellent, and the tableside guacamole is a must, the perfect balance of lime tartness and jalapeno spice and fatty avocado. I'm really surprised by the Vegetarian Fajitas, because while the tofu is fairly typical, the vegetables are varied and perfectly cooked: lovely pattypan squashes, flawlessly grilled eggplant, sweet charred corn. The veggie tamales are vegan, and include nopales (cactus), one of my favorites. For a place that specializes in seafood and mole, this place does vegetables right.

the Vegetarian Tamale Plate, with lard-free beans and rice

vegan-friendly Mexican
4 Banana Ln
Santa Fe, NM 87503

While in New Mexico, I really wanted to try The Tree House, Santa Fe's vegetarian pastry cafe. After repeatedly driving past what we thought was their location, we gave up and went for tamales instead! I later learned they moved around the time of our visit, and their new location seems to be up and thriving. Next time!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Vegan Road Trip, Part IV: Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Sedona

After several weeks in Los Angeles, I'm lulled into the slower pace of these health-conscious cities. We stay in Scottsdale, at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center, where we're comfortably tucked away, gorging on fresh fruit and emerging only to try local restaurants.

The comments on this casual eatery are mixed: "It's a vegan McDonald's! Awesome!" and "This place is dirty and disgusting," so I'm not sure what to expect. It turns out to be neither of these things, and offers a solid menu of sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and entrees. Many items are heavy with garlic, salt, and fat (which isn't entirely a bad thing), but you can easily go healthy with items like Steamed Edamame, Tahini Coleslaw, or a Balsamic Picnic Salad (greens, organic pecans, apples, and strawberries in balsamic dressing). The appetizer menu looks interesting, but the Crab Puffs and Samosas are just okay. For a fatty, salty fix, go for Mum's Meatball Po Boy instead. I usually don't order salads at vegan restaurants, but the Three Green Salad (palm hearts, Spanish olives, lemon olive dressing) and Jerk Tofu Salad (jerk-spiced house tofu with greens and Jamaican dressing) are tempting. The mock chicken is worth trying, whether in the Ranchero Salad, where its accompanied by greens, carrots, and ranch dressing, or in the Drunken Mushroom Chicken, with sake and tamari over rice noodles. Don't miss the Thyme Fries, and try the Tsoynamis, made with vegan soft serve. The Rocky Road is excellent (vegan marshmallows!), and the otherwise icy Pumpkin Pie is topped with whipped soy cream. Flavors vary daily.
2240 N. Scottsdale Rd. #8, Tempe, AZ 85281

Fresh Mint
This pan-Asian eatery serves mock meat dishes, well-cooked vegetables, and classics like eggrolls and noodle bowls. The evening we visit, they are incredibly busy, with only one or two servers staffing the packed restaurant. We wait over an hour for our food, which turns out to be great. Servings are small and prettily plated. To apologize for the poor service, they bring us a slice of peanut butter chocolate cake, which on asking, we discover isn't vegan. It is quickly replaced with a tapioca coconut pudding, which is very good. Visit during lunch, and you won't contend with large crowds and overwhelmed waitstaff.
Fresh Mint
13802 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale Arizona 85254

raw vegan sushi at Chocolatree

Chocolatree Cafe
I giggle to see the hours listed as "11am-8pm or as late as the Bliss Vibes keep alive!" but I'm genuinely happy to be at this raw, high-vibe cafe. After a day of hiking and searching for energy vortexes, I'm hungry and tired. It's New Year's Eve, and we haven't booked a place to stay, but Chocolatree is open, and both the server and the cafe are warm. We're more interested in the free wireless internet than the food, but when Thai Coconut Soup and a Sushi Plate arrive, I eagerly tuck in. The soup is amazing: fresh Thai coconut cream with lime, onion, garlic, and chiles, filled with fresh vegetables and served cold. The sushi is simple, and a bit loosely wrapped, but good. The menu is similar to Go Raw Cafe, with some more inventive offerings. For dessert, we order the Chocolate Ganache Cake, and my two-year-old has found love. I vow to try the Chocolatree Porridge next time, a mix of warm coconut cream porridge with strawberries, seeds, and agave, from the kids' menu.

the extensive selection of raw chocolates at Chocolatree

I buy a few raw chocolates for the road, and savor a bite of Aztec chiles and cinnamon. It's after 8, and we still don't have lodging, but the Bliss Vibes are alive.

Be sure to ask which chocolates are vegan; some contain honey.
Chocolatree Cafe
1595 West Highway 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336

I ring in the New Year on a road under the naked Arizona sky, and we're the only people for miles. Minutes earlier, there's an unfortunate incident involving liquid and a rapidly moving car.* But we can't stop laughing about it. I'm with my favorite people in the world, and the view is so expansive, I can't tell where the road ends and the sky begins.

*Do not atttempt to dump urine when driving 80 mph; it will not end well! That's right, I'm writing about this on a food blog.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Vegan Road Trip, Part III: Los Angeles

A lot of my childhood was spent at Disneyland. My Dad was one of the first engineers at the park, and remembers Walt Disney walking around and chatting with the employees as they planned and created. I listened to lectures on the mechanics of automatronic figures for the duration of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and I never sat on It's A Small World without thinking of the hydrolics he designed for the laughing hyenas, or the air pressure used to make doll eyes blink. There wasn't much magic to the place, but my Dad instilled the gift of curiosity in me, and somehow managed to make it even more enjoyable.

For his 80th birthday, we decided to visit with the whole family. We're a mixture of vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores, and there were plenty of options to make everyone happy.

And Los Angeles is full of vegan food! Here's just a taste:

I explain that it's okay for vegans to ride carousel horses

My expectations for the Magic Kingdom are low, and so I bring plenty of fresh fruit and Raw Lemon Bars for our trip. But I'm happily surprised to discover baked sweet potatoes on Main Street, vegetable soup in several restaurants, and simple salads all over. For lunch, The Blue Bayou (inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride) offers vegan Portobello Mushrooms and Couscous Maque Choux, but is booked for the entire day (reservations are recommended). We visit the adjacent Cafe Orleans, where I order Ratatouille (sans Corn Cakes; they contain eggs) and pommes frites (hold the garlic-herb sauce; it contains cheese). The former is more like a vegetable ragout than a true Ratatouille, but still decent. Throughout the park, there are plenty of fruit stalls in addition to the usual popcorn and churros, and I enjoy a pineapple juice in Adventureland's Tiki Juice Bar. A few stalls away, the Bengal Barbecue sells vegetable skewers with mushrooms, zucchini, squash, and pineapple; they're prepared on a separate grill from the meat. Later in the day, we return to New Orleans Square for vegetarian (vegan) gumbo in a bread bowl and mint juleps. There's no soymilk to be found in the park, but a plain cup of tea is fine with my raw bars. I'm still glad for my backpack stocked with fruit and snacks, but it's nice to know I could've survived without it.
Disneyland Restaurants
casual to fine dining, $-$$$
1313 S. Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802

Phở Bò at Au Lac

Au Lac
Au Lac's blend of Asian, raw, and vegan cuisines has been dubbed Humanese, and I couldn't imagine a more lovely introduction. This quiet Fountain Valley restaurant feels kind of like a speakeasy, as you step past the simple exterior into a room full of sparkling granite tables and gorgeous people (they're waiting at the bar for drinks like the Breathearian and the Jim Jones Cocktail).

We start with Winter Rolls (strips of zucchini wrapped around coconut meat and lime leaf sauce), and Au Lac Raw Soup. The rolls are fine, but the soup is exceptional, a brothy infusion of miso saffron filled with nori, tomatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, bean sprouts, lime juice, celery leaf, dill, cilantro, red bell peppers, pine nuts, avocado and macadamia nuts. With so many ingredients, I expect a muddle of flavors, but each shines distinctly.

Rice dishes aren't my favorite, but I'm tempted by the Living Rice section and order the Asado Detira (sprouted raw wild rice, soft mushroom ribs with Chimichurri sauce, aquatic grass & garlic bread). The rice is a bit oily, but the garlic bread is the best raw bread I've ever tasted: spongy and thick and moist. I spend days trying to figure out the recipe (chia seeds? buckwheat?) and still don't have a clue. There's also excellent Phở Bò, the traditional Vietnamese soup of flat rice noodles, soy beef, soy ham, and anise broth, served with sprouts, basil, and jalapeno. We regret missing other entrees on the extensive menu, but there's already plenty to take home. At the end of the meal, Chef Ito brings us raw vegan chocolates to share, and makes a balloon for my daughter. They're enamored with eachother, and communicate only with their faces; Glory is full of shy intensity, and Ito has taken a vow of silence, which makes him--and Au Lac--even more charming.
Au Lac
vegan and raw Asian fusion, $$
16563 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

This lovely vegan cafe on Wilshire closed last month, and I was so disappointed to hear it.

Their Tempeh Reuben, smothered with Daiya and served with a salad laquered with jammy fig balsamic, was the best I've had. And I've never paid $9 for a smoothie before, but the Pearl, made with fresh young coconut milk, almond butter, real vanilla bean, and Medjool dates was entirely worth it. Seeing a great vegan restaurant (it was ranked #3 in Los Angeles) close is a sad thing, so if you have a local vegan place, please go support it tonight!

RIP, Cafe Flourish. You were awesome.

Happy Family
Come for dinner, and you'll be treated to all-you-can-eat Chinese dishes, cooked to order on request (not a buffet), along with tea and extras. Skip the bland Congee (corn and rice soup) and request Hot and Sour, which isn't always available, but is peppery and delicious. The meal also comes with white or brown rice, and bread, which can be served fried or steamed. Vegetables are abundant here, but there are lots of mock-meats too. Start with Minced Squab in Lettuce Cups and House Chicken (fried mushrooms sprinkled with sesame and chiles), and don't miss the Eggplant with Basil, Vegetarian Soy Fish with Hot Bean Sauce, and Dry Sauteed String Beans, which are garlicky and always perfectly cooked. The Mustard Greens with Bean Curd Sheet is very popular, but I prefer the Vegetarian Shredded Pork with Pickled Vegetables. Everything is good, and if a dish isn't great, don't worry; there's another coming. The service is brusque and quick, so be assertive when making requests, and don't let the waitstaff ignore you; they're actually really lovely.
Happy Family Chinese Restaurant
vegan Chinese, $
111 N Altantic Blvd. #351, Monterey Park, CA 91754

airy, sugar-coated Doughnuts at Madeleine Bistro

Madeleine Bistro
Chef David Anderson is doing some of the most innovative culinary stuff these days, and it's always a pleasure to visit this vegan eatery. Managed by his wife Molly, Madeleine Bistro balances casual and excellent, putting you at ease without the intimidation of other great restaurants. Everything is just right, from the Red Beet Tartare (served with a warm tofu cheese crouton, English cucumber, and balsamic glace) to the Waffles and Chicken (Belgian waffles, seitan “chicken”, mashed potatoes, and gravy).

Today we come for brunch, and order Doughnuts (with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote) and Beignets (above), substantial and crisp, with Apple Compote alongside. Try the Bigger Maque for an animal-free--and really fantastic--version of the original, or the Cheese Plate, composed of several house-made fromages, which can convince even the worst gastronomic snob that vegan cheese is legit. If you're feeling really decadent, make a reservation for Valentine's Day, and it'll be one of the best meals of your life. I'm still imagining the Smoked Portabella Terrine, and Carrot Meringues with Meyer Lemon Curd...

crisp Waffles and "Chicken" smothered with gravy, a pot of maple syrup alongside

Madeleine Bistro
vegan French, $$$
18621 Ventura Blvd. Tarzana, CA 91356

Next up, Arizona...