Category Archives: Breakfast

Magic Mark’s Heavenly Vegan Breakfast Burritos—Two Ways

Vegan breakfast burrito in all its glory

Vegan breakfast burrito in all its glory

I’ve been on a hiatus for a few weeks for work, and sadly have neglected the Doctor Vegan site as a result. But, after three countries, two hemispheres, and a harrowing experience driving a 10 seater van on the left side of the road in a torrential downpour, I’m back home in California!

My first trip was for three weeks to Micronesia. After a 15 hour return flight, I landed back at chaotic LAX airport at 5am on a Saturday morning. My loving boyfriend picked me up and brought my red-eye bedraggled self home for a long morning nap. I awoke a few hours later to the heavenly smell of sautéing onions, potatoes, and spices—Mark was making me breakfast burritos from scratch.

The day before, in anticipation of my arrival, he had meticulously purchased all the items necessary to make the most awesome vegan breakfast burritos ever, knowing that there is almost nothing in life that makes me (and my belly) happier than burritos in breakfast form. That morning, the creation consisted of a multi-grain tortilla blanketing fried potatoes, onions, bell pepper, black beans, scrambled tofu and spices, salsa, guacamole, vegan sour cream, and vegan nacho cheese. It was practically perfect, in every way. Nearly overflowing with tasty perfection, in fact.

avocados

The start of fresh guacamole from scratch.

Raw ingredients

Getting ready to cook

But the burrito dream didn’t end there. On day two, Mark whipped up an entirely different burrito—this one stuffed with lentils, brown rice, vegan ‘chicken’ strips, almond herb ‘cheese’, and guacamole (because it just aint a burrito without guacamole). The ultimate homemade savory breakfast burrito. For the next four—that’s right FOUR—days, we continued reliving our breakfast burrito dream until finally, after nearly a week, we had used up all the ingredients. Six days in a row of homemade vegan breakfast burritos has to be close to some kind of record.

Sauteing sweet potatoes and peppers.

Sauteing sweet potatoes and peppers.

Tofu after adding seasoning and some water.

Tofu after adding seasoning and some water.

Today, I present to you the ingredients and instructions for how to prepare these magical hand-held belly-pleasing burritos in your own home. There are a million variations you could try—here I only present to you two main options, with a few suggestions for substitutes or additions (e.g., on day 3 we added sweet potatoes to the mix—highly recommended!). But let these recipes be your raw material to create your own burrito magic, and whatever you end up stuffing them with, I hope you thoroughly enjoy! It’s hard to compare any restaurant version to these labors of love—if you put in the effort, you will not be disappointed.

Mm, mm get in my mouth!

Mm, mm get in my mouth!

For both of these burrito recipes, keep in mind that the quantities are highly adaptable, depending on how many burritos you want to make (and/or how many days you want to eat breakfast burrito filling—which, if you are me, could be infinite)

Breakfast Burrito #1—The Everything Scramble

This was my hands-down favorite, and it’s so versatile. With a little bit of everything, this burrito means business.

Filling Ingredients:

– Olive oil (or coconut oil, vegan butter, etc)

– Two medium potatoes (e.g. red, russet, sweet potatoes, or a mix), chopped into small cubes

– 1 bell pepper, diced

– ½ package of organic tofu (softer tofu will crumble into more of a scramble which works well here, while firm tofu will be more cubed), chopped into small cubes

– 1 small onion or ½ large onion, diced

– 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

– ½ tsp turmeric, ¼ tsp cumin, pinch of paprika, salt and pepper to taste

 

To top it off:

– Fresh salsa (or tomatoes, onions, chili, cilantro, seasoning)

– Guacamole (store-bought, or fresh avocado with lime juice, cilantro, seasoning–Mark made fresh, just sayin’)

– Vegan cheese (Mark used Follow Your Heart nacho cheese, but you could use any type of cheese you prefer, or be adventurous and make your own! Here are two nacho cheese; ideas here and here), sliced or shredded

– Vegan sour cream

– Multigrain wraps (we like Udi’s Multigrain wraps, but you could go with gluten-free, or whatever you prefer)

 

Directions:

  1. Heat 1-2 tbs of olive oil or other preferred oil in large pan. Add diced potatoes and onions* and sauté until tender on med heat. Add black beans and heat until warmed through.
  2. In a separate pan, cook tofu on medium heat with a bit of olive oil, add water as necessary. Add the spices, salt and pepper. Once the tofu has cooked for a few minutes, you can add it to the potato and onion mixture if you want. Add more seasoning to taste.
  3. Turn off burner. Now is where you set up your burrito station: have the wraps, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream ready to go like an assembly line. Fill each wrap with a few spoon fulls of the potato/tofu filling, then top with each of the add-ins.
  4. Now just, Wrap, Eat, and Smile. If you wish, once you wrap the burrito you can heat it for a minute or two on the pan to warm the outside as well as the inside—but if this takes too much patience, by all means just go for that first bite!

*When sautéing the filling, you could easily add in other vegetables (mushrooms and spinach come to mind) to the mix as desired—chunkier vegetables should be added earlier in the process, while leafier vegetables should be added near the end. Enjoy!

 

Breakfast Burrito #2—Savory Satisfaction

This is Mark’s version of what we call the ‘super savory’ lentil breakfast burrito from the Vegan Joint. This is a burrito that will grow some hair on your chest (figuratively), and is really an any-time-of-day burrito.

Ingredients:

– ½ onion

– ½ bell pepper

– 1 cup cooked lentils (brown, preferably, but any will do)

– 1 cup cooked brown rice (or your favorite type of rice)

– Vegan ‘chicken’ strips (Mark used the Beyond Meat grilled chicken strips; alternatively you could use tempeh or your favorite meat substitute—something that has firm chewy texture)

– Vegan cheese (for this burrito, Mark used Lisanatti garlic-herb almond cheese), sliced or shredded

– Guacamole (of course!)

– Salt and pepper, to taste

-Optional—vegan sour cream and/or salsa

 

Directions:

  1. Super easy! Heat a bit of olive oil in a large pan and warm chicken strips for a few minutes over med heat
  2. Add lentils and brown rice (pre-cooked) and continue to cook until heated over med-low heat; add seasoning as necessary (and hot sauce if you like that sorta thing)
  3. Time to wrap! Put savory filling into wraps, top with vegan cheese, guacamole, and vegan sour cream and salsa if desired. Scrumptious! Again, feel free to add veggies if you like, and to heat the filled wrap in the pan.

May the food be with you!

-Doctor Vegan

Beautiful creation.

Beautiful creation.

Take Back the Brunch: Café Gratitude makes me grateful for breakfast

Exterior of Cafe Gratitude, Venice Beach

Exterior of Cafe Gratitude, Venice Beach

Café Gratitude is probably one of the most quintessentially California ‘granola’ restaurants you can imagine—in other words, my dream come true (even if it does make me feel a bit self-righteous every time I visit). Hence, it’s not surprising you’ll find this restaurant in two locations in L.A. as well as in Berkeley and Santa Cruz—and apparently now there’s a new location in Kansas City? Didn’t expect that one. The story behind how the restaurant was originally founded and the ethics that drive its management are a worthwhile read available on their website.

The ambiance is like an upscale hippie-turned-yuppy café, with outside patio seating and inside tables, booths and community tables plus a long row of bar seating. An assortment of decadent baked goods and homemade, nutrient-dense jarred and bottled concoctions greet you from their rustic-chic displays when you walk in.

Interior of Cafe Gratitude.

Interior of Cafe Gratitude.

Patio seating.

Patio seating.

I tend to frequent the West Side locale on Rose Street in Venice Beach. The Café is nestled amongst a patchwork of other upscale shops, a yoga studio, and a juicery (yep, that’s a thing in L.A.). Everything on Café Gratitude’s menu is vegan and organic, and a lot of it is raw and/or gluten free. While the range of items might sound daunting at first to your average non-vegan–options like kelp noodles, three-grain tempeh, raw bagels with cashew cream cheese, and daikon-collard wraps–you have to trust me when I say that there is probably something on this menu to please everyone, even the stubborn omnivores out there. It definitely won over my father and his fiancé, who loved the breakfast items, especially the sweet ones.

You just have to be able to survive the hipster crowd and the artsy wait staff that leave you with a poem and a philosophical question to discuss at the table when they hand you the menus. No joke. Oh, and the menu items that are listed as Motivational ‘Intentions’ rather than descriptions of the actual meal. For example, the grilled polenta meal is called ‘I am warm-hearted’; the Indian curried lentils are ‘Humble’; and the vegetable tacos are ‘Transformed.’ Want a drink? You might go with the ‘Divine,’ or maybe the ‘Elevated’, or the ‘I am Outrageous’ for a probiotic kick. Don’t even get me started on the desserts. It’s a unique dining experience, to be sure.

A portion of the unique menu style.

A portion of the unique menu style.

It's hard not to drool wantonly when you pass by the vegan dessert case!

It’s hard not to drool wantonly when you pass by the vegan dessert case!

If you can jive with the purposeful (and perhaps slightly forced) communal all-is-love vibe that Café Gratitude strives for, your time will be well worth it. The food here is unabashedly amazing–very fresh, flavorful, healthy, and filling. Because brunch holds such a special place in my heart, that’s the focus of today’s blog. I’ll get right to the spoiler and just state flat out that the brunch items on offer rank as some of the most satisfying food I’ve tasted in L.A., and as an added bonus, are made with some of the healthiest organic ingredients as well. Double win!

I was full for about eight hours after eating here…perhaps it was that extra crepe I ordered on the side. Worth it! The prices are slightly higher than a ‘typical’ café, but in the case of Café Gratitude the price adequately reflects the quality, flavor, and portion size of the meals. I’ve definitely been to other vegan restaurants that over-charge for disappointing food—this is not one of those places. Be ‘Brave’ and try this place out for brunch. You’ll probably want to come back for dinner!

Café Gratitude, Venice Beach

Individual menu items:

WARM, aka Apple Cinnamon Muffin (gluten-free)

Muffin

Somehow, Café Gratitude has pulled off the difficult task of making healthy food taste like the classic versions you remember growing up—but better! Their muffins are no exception. This muffin melts in your mouth and has wonderful flavor and texture. You can’t tell its gluten-free or vegan. The taste is indulgent, but not overly sweet and desserty like some of the other vegan bakery muffins I’ve tasted. Thumbs up!

Health: 3.5 out of 5 (obviously this place uses pretty healthy ingredients, but I imagine the protein content is fairly low while the sugar content is higher in this item)

Taste: 5 out of 5; scrumptious!

 

OPEN-HEARTED, aka Buckwheat pancakes (gluten-free)

Buckwheat pancakes
No words are worthy. Probably the best vegan pancakes I’ve had (and its really tough to compete with Hugo’s vegan pancakes!). I love buckwheat—its hearty yet still makes fluffy pancakes, and these babies certainly had it all: light, airy texture, just slightly sweet with a nice light grain flavor, all topped with organic maple syrup, fresh fruit, and a mouth-wateringly delicious cashew whipped cream. Have I made my point? If you dig pancakes, you MUST put these in your mouth SOON.

Health: 4 out of 5 (maybe a bit lower with excessive cashew cream and/or maple syrup; otherwise, light and healthy while still hearty and satisfying)

Taste: 5 out of 5, if it wasn’t already obvious!

 

FANTASTIC, aka Crepe (gluten-free, raw)

Crepe

This raw, GF take on a classic French crepe is definitely an interesting twist. You can’t capture the same light, crisp texture of a crepe sans eggs. That said, this was an enjoyable rendition, though it was a bit heavier and chewier. The crepe itself tasted almost like a waffle cone, but the sweetness of the crepe was set off nicely by the slightly tangy coconut yogurt and fresh fruit and nuts that topped it.

Health: 3 out of 5 (probably a bit high in fat and sugar)

Taste: 4 out of 5 (interesting, unique, but no where as rave-worthy as the pancakes, though if you want a bit lighter breakfast the crepe is a good option)

 

TRUSTING, aka Tempeh Scramble

Tempeh scramble
This savory scramble is a blend of three-grain tempeh and mixed seasonal vegetables including shitake mushrooms, spinach, scallions, cilantro and avocado, and comes with whole grain sesame toast. This is definitely a hearty meal, more like a lunch or dinner item, with a nice healthy vibe, but the flavor didn’t really stick out as exciting or unique–sort of had an Asian stir-fry vibe. A solid staple kind of meal.
Health: 5 out of 5 (lots of fresh veg, high protein tempeh, light seasoning)

Taste: 3 out of 5 (nice fresh veggies and seasoning, just nothing that really popped out as exciting or note-worthy. My dad was a bit ho-hum about it—although he was obsessed with the muffin)

 

TERRIFIC, aka Kelp noodle salad

Kelp noodle salad

This dish combines kelp noodles with a Pad Thai type marinade tossed in an almond sauce with mixed vegetables including carrots, bell peppers, and kale, topped with crispy almonds and sprouts. The creaminess of the sauce was enticing, and the flavor of the dish was well balanced—light, but complex and satisfying without being overpowering. The hint of almonds really enhanced the flavor, and the avocado rounded everything out (what ISN’T better with avocado, really?). Another nice savory dish.

Health: 4.5 out of 5

Taste: 4.5 out of 5

Superfood Muffins: The Sequel (this time with Nibs!)

Scrumptious blueberry-banana muffins with raw cacao nibs!

Scrumptious blueberry-banana muffins with raw cacao nibs!

Some of you may have read about my first Superfood Muffin recipe, a mix of healthy flours, oils, and ‘superfoods’ like goji berries and chia seeds. Well, today I want to share with you a different version, one that I think I may like better than the original!

While the recipe I use for both versions is similar in many ways, I used a different website for my inspiration this time around—Blissful Blueberry Banana Spelt Muffins provided by oh she glows, a great website about vegan and gluten-free living (and eating).

Mmmm, fresh organic local blueberries...hard not to eat them all right now!

Mmmm, fresh organic local blueberries…hard not to eat them all right now!

The wet mix may not look especially appetizing, but just wait until these guys come out of the oven! Pictured: Mashed banana, avocado, maple syrup, almond milk, and coconut oil.

The wet mix may not look especially appetizing, but just wait until these guys come out of the oven! Pictured: Mashed banana, avocado, maple syrup, almond milk, and coconut oil.

This time around, I changed up my superfoods. The muffin batter has a similar base, including banana and avocado. But from there I took some different turns, including the addition of almond milk, and apple cider vinegar–thanks to oh she glows’ inspiration. For the add-ins, I incorporated a whole lot of fresh blueberries and a large handful of raw cacao nibs—my new favorite Super ingredient! I bought mine from Chocovivo, an amazing local raw chocolate shop that I will post about very soon. You can also find nibs at health food stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods, and of course online.

Raw cacao nibs have a robust dark chocolate flavor and a lot of health benefits.

Raw cacao nibs have a robust dark chocolate flavor and a lot of health benefits.

On their own, cacao nibs (if they are 100% cacao with no added sugar) are quite bitter and potent, but once you add them into a recipe or mix them into a smoothie, their flavor is mellowed out and provides a rich, chocolatey complement to whatever you serve them with, plus a bunch of great minerals and nutrients. Raw cacao nibs are packed with fiber and beneficial polyphenols, much more than processed chocolate. Turns out you can have your cake—er, chocolate—and eat it too!

I wrote about the health benefits of many of the other ingredients in my previous recipe post, so feel free to check it out for more info. If you do make any of these versions, let me know how they turn out and how you modify them. Hope you have fun trying out your own twists on these recipes!

May the Food be with You,

-Dr. K

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Superfood Muffins: The Sequel

Ingredients

-2 bananas

-Approx ½ medium avocado

-¾ cup almond milk (you could use hemp, coconut, soy, or whatever floats your ‘milky’ boat)

-1 tsp apple cider vinegar (if you don’t have any on hand your muffins will still be edible, this just helps the batter rise a little better for a lighter texture)

-1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

-¼ cup coconut oil, melted

-2 cups flour; I used 1 c. spelt, ½ c. oat flour, ½ c. millet flour (you could use any combo of flours your heart desires!)

-1/3 cup coconut sugar (you can find at TJs!)

-½ cup oats

-2 tsp baking powder

-1.5 tsp cinnamon

-¼ tsp Himalayan sea salt

-½ tsp baking soda

-1-2 cups fresh or frozen* blueberries (I used 1 whole punnet of fresh berries)

-Optional add-ins: ¼ cup chia seeds or hemp seeds, ½ cup chopped walnuts, ½ cup goji berries, ½ cup cacao nibs (I went with the nibs, added amazing depth of flavor and are little bits of superfood goodness!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a muffin tin with coconut oil
  2. In a medium bowl, mash bananas and avocado.
  3. Add the milk, vinegar, maple syrup, and vanilla to mashed banana/avocado mix. No need to stir it yet.
  4. Melt the coconut oil in a small pot over low heat (or in microwave). Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda).
  6. Stir coconut oil into the wet mixture. Pour wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix as spelt is a fragile flour.
  7. Gently fold in your chosen add-ins and then the blueberries, being sure not to overmix as this can result in dense muffins.
  8. Spoon batter into muffin tin cups about 3/4 full (or if you are like me, all the way to the top!)
  9. Bake at 350F for 23-27 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean, or when you press the tops gently they are somewhat firm (not doughy) to the touch.
  10. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes and then transfer muffins to a cooling rack and cool for another 15 minutes.

*Note: If using frozen blueberries, be sure to leave them in the freezer (do not thaw) until just before you stir them into the batter. This helps prevent bleeding—unless you like purple muffins, in which case disregard! J

Take Back the Brunch: The Vegan Joint review

Vegan Joint sign

Welcome to the first review in my Take Back the Brunch series!

The Vegan Joint is one of our neighborhood go-to’s. It’s in walking distance from our apartment, and they also deliver—and we’ve felt lazy enough a number of times to take advantage of that service. In a separate entry I’ll review some of the Vegan Joint’s awesome lunch and dinner options, but this entry is all about Buh-Runch!

I’ve been ordering the Vegan Joint’s breakfast burritos for as long as I’ve been living on the Westside. They are different from any other breakfast burrito—vegan or otherwise—than I’ve ever tasted, and once you’ve had one, you WILL get periodic cravings for one of these bad boys. When I crave a breakfast burrito and I want it STAT, I head over to the Vegan Joint (or have them deliver one to my slovenly self on the laziest of days). So even though I was always tempted to try out some of their other breakfast options, I always stuck with the tried-and-true #4 burrito that my stomach was calling for.

Today, my friends, that all changed. Luckily, I had two accomplices joining me on my Vegan Joint brunch mission, and therefore ample reason to order multiple items on the brunch menu. We ordered 2 different breakfast burritos (including my classic fave, because a review wouldn’t be complete without it), but I also finally ordered the item I had wanted to try for over a year: the tropical pancakes. You can read all the individual food item reviews below. We also ordered two different ‘cleansing’ juices, plus we were offered free tortilla chips and salsa while we waited for our meals.

Free chips and 'salsa' (tastes more like water tomato paste) while we wait. The chips themselves are thick and a bit doughy, but addictive!

Free chips and ‘salsa’ (tastes more like watery tomato paste) while we wait. The chips themselves are thick and a bit doughy, but addictive!

Needless to say, we left the restaurant feeling a lot heavier than when we got there—luckily we walked and therefore worked off at least a small percentage of the food calories ingested in the name of Brunch. The Vegan Joint sits on the corner of National Blvd. and Motor Ave., nestled within a small Palms neighborhood amongst an eclectic mix of small sundry shops including a retro clothing store, a board and card game store, a few small ethnic restaurants, a deli, etc. On Sundays the block is closed to through-traffic and a small farmer’s market is held out front. Nice for people watching, but horrible for parking. Only street parking is available, so driving here on evenings, especially weekends, as well as Sunday mornings, can be a test of patience. Just be prepared for a few loops around the block.

The Vegan Joint has two other locations, though I haven’t visited them: one in Hollywood, and one in Woodland Hills. You can order from all three locations online or by phone. The restaurant chain is owned by a Thai family, and they are always courteous, attentive, and welcoming when you arrive (though sometimes ordering via phone is an adventure in inter-lingual communication). It probably makes sense, then, that some of the best food the Vegan Joint has to offer is their Asian/Thai dishes, like their amazing curries (again, to be reviewed in a separate up-coming blog entry). If you are looking for awesome vegan Mexican food, this is NOT the place to go, despite the several Mexican inspired items on the menu.

That said, the breakfast burritos are a major exception (though the name ‘burrito’ is the only Mexican-esque thing about them); and the pancakes and other breakfast items like hash browns and tofu scramble are equally mouth pleasing, as I can now personally attest. This is a no-nonsense, no-frills kind of place—many people compare it to a neighborhood diner that just happens to be vegan. You won’t get frilly parsley or fancy plating in this place; just huge portions that take two hands to eat (in the case of the burritos), and that you probably won’t be able to finish in one sitting.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend the Vegan Joint as the healthiest option for vegan brunch items, but there is something for everybody on the menu. Based on the menu and my personal experience, the Vegan Joint seems to incorporate much more refined wheat flour, sugars, fake meats (i.e. soy and wheat-based with high salt content), and vegetable oils in their dishes than some of the other more ‘upscale’ vegan restaurants in Los Angeles. You’ll notice, therefore, that my ‘health’ ratings for most items are lower than similar items at other restaurants I may review. However, compared to your ‘typical’ brunch spot or neighborhood diner, the Vegan Joint is going to be a healthier option item-for-item in regards to ingredients, fat content, and cholesterol, while still offering a lot of flavor.

As an easy, affordable treat once in awhile, this is a Brunch option with a lot of plusses—casual neighborly vibe, quick service, good prices, and most importantly breakfast served ALL DAY.

The Vegan Joint, West L.A.

Individual food reviews

Breakfast Burrito #3

Burrito #3: Stuffed with lentils, brown rice, onion, bell pepper, soy chicken, and a lot of savory seasoning.

Burrito #3: Stuffed with lentils, brown rice, onion, bell pepper, soy chicken, and a lot of savory seasoning.

If there were one word to effectively describe this burrito, it would be Savory. This burrito should more accurately be called a wrap (along with all the other burritos served here) because the filling is enclosed in lavash bread rather than a tortilla. As a result of this however, the burritos are huge because the lavash bread comes in large thin pieces, and the filling is then rolled up into layers of this bread. The Burrito #3 is stuffed full with a lentil loaf (a dense mix of lentils, brown rice, onion, bell pepper, and spices), grilled soy chicken, garlic sauce, and vegan cheese. No room for fresh vegetables in this monster. This is a burrito that even the most enthusiastic of meat eaters will marvel at for its flavor, density, and ability to fill you up for hours! The first few bites are a melt-in-your-mouth heavenly savory experience. The next few bites feel like guilty pleasures as you start to feel more and more full. By the time you finish the first half of the burrito, you feel like a lead weight and the other half seems to sit incredulously on the plate mocking you for your weak eating abilities. Seriously though, I wouldn’t recommend eating the full burrito in one sitting. But if you crave umami-dominant foods, this is going to fulfill your needs and then some. For me, personally, I can only handle about ¼ of this burrito at a time, and I have to eat something slightly sweet or lighter at the same time to balance out the heftiness of this beast.

Health: 2 out of 5 (good amount of natural protein from the lentils, and the lavish bread appears to be whole wheat; but loses points for soy chicken, salt, and processed vegan cheese plus lack of fresh ingredients)

Taste: 4 out of 5 (lots of flavor, but if you eat too much of this burrito at once, the salty/savoriness takes over and starts to strangle your taste buds)

Breakfast Burrito #4

Burrito #4: Magical mix of sweet potato, tofu scramble, and vegan cheese

Burrito #4: Magical mix of sweet potato, tofu scramble, and vegan cheese

This is my favorite breakfast burrito from the Vegan Joint because it’s the perfect combo of savory with a bit of sweetness from the potato. The #4 is stuffed with sweet potatoes, tofu scramble, and vegan cheese. This burrito is lighter than the #3 thanks to the tofu scramble (though it’s still incredibly filling), and less overwhelmingly savory and salty as well. The scramble has a seasoning that almost reminds me of Indian spice—turmeric and cumin, among other spices, but none are extremely potent. These flavors, in combination with the mild and slightly sweet potatoes and the savory aspect of the cheese, combine to make a wrap that’s hard to beat. Again, there aren’t really any fresh veggies in this (as if there would be room!), and it is tofu heavy which may not please those trying to reduce their soy intake. And like the #3, you’ll be pressed to finish the entire burrito in one sitting (not recommended).

Health: 2.5 out of 5 (sweet potato has natural vitamins and minerals, the tofu scramble adds protein and healthy spices—and I would say that tofu is a slightly healthier, less processed option than fake meats—but this burrito still contains the processed vegan cheese, decent amount of oil, and lack of fresh vegetables)

Taste: 4.5 out of 5 (like I said, a nearly perfect combination of sweet and savory, with a great texture and enticing mix of seasonings)

Tropical Pancakes

I would definitely take these tropical pancakes with me if I was deserted on a tropical island.

I would definitely take these tropical pancakes with me if I was deserted on a tropical island.

These vegan pancakes are probably the closest to the classic concept of light, fluffy pancakes that I’ve tried around L.A. Not only is their texture pleasant, but the flavor is light and these babies are jam-packed with fresh blueberries and banana—no skimping on the fruit factor! The pancake batter tasted slightly sweet, so I’m guessing there is added sugar in the mix, very likely white sugar. The pancakes come with vegan butter on the side, which tasted great and melted well, but was probably a margarine type vegan butter containing soy, canola, palm and similar type oils. The syrup served on the side tasted decent as well, so it was likely real maple syrup, but again hard to tell. If you are craving the ultimate classic, indulgent fruit pancake, these are the cakes you are looking for. For those of you looking to avoid refined sugar and wheat, stay clear of these and opt for one of the less processed versions I’ll review in my upcoming blog, particularly the buckwheat pancakes and crepes from Café Gratitude.

Health: 2 out of 5 (sugar, wheat flour, margarine, and syrup do not add up to healthy, but the abundant fresh blueberries and lack of animal fats keep these pancakes from getting the lowest score)

Taste: 5 out of 5 (I have to admit these really hit the Brunch spot, despite the subtle guilt I felt knowing I was probably eating several servings worth of white flour and sugar)

Apple Sage Sausage

Vegan apple sage sausage--dare I say better than REAL sausage??

Vegan apple sage sausage–dare I say better than REAL sausage??

I will go out on a limb and suggest that these vegan sausages may actually appeal to meat eaters just as much as vegans and vegetarians. I’m not sure where the Vegan Joint gets them from, but one of the only brands that makes vegan apple sage sausages is called ‘Field Roast Grain Meat Co.’. If this is indeed the source, than these are actually a fairly healthy option. As opposed to most ‘fake meats’ that are made out of processed soy and wheat gluten, Field Roast sausages are made from chopped vegetables, whole grains, and natural seasonings. The texture of these sausages alone is remarkable, but the flavor is outstanding—an excellent balance of savory sausage flavor with the slightly sweet apple and an umami smoked flavor (if you haven’t noticed, I’m obsessed with foods that combine sweet and savory flavors). These sausages are a great addition to any of the burritos on the Vegan Joint menu, or as a savory side to go with the pancakes or other sweet breakfast item. I typically ignore the sauce that is served with these sausages; I don’t know what it is, but while I enjoy the food at the Vegan Joint, the sauces that come with their dishes always seem a bit lackluster.

Health: 3 out of 5 (better option than other fake meats, likely decent amount of protein, but hard to tell what actual ingredients are in them)

Taste: 4.5 out of 5 (hard to beat in terms of flavor balance and texture; some even contend that these win out over many actual meat sausages!)

Green Cleansing Juice

Green cleansing juice (left) and veggie power juice (right), a powerhouse indeed.

Green cleansing juice (left) and veggie power juice (right), a powerhouse indeed.

This fresh juice contains kale, grape fruit, green apple, cucumber, pineapple. I love this juice—its not overly sweet, and has a fresh crispness to it, a slight tang from the grape fruit, and a tropically vibe from the pineapple. This is a great mix of fruit and veggie flavor, with no one ingredient overpowering the rest. Highly recommended!

Health: 4 out of 5 (Probably not using organic fruits and vegetables, and probably has a decent amount of sugar, albeit naturally occurring from the fruits, but overall seems fresh squeezed and healthy as juices go)

Taste: 5 out of 5!

Veggie Power Juice

This juice is a potent mixture of beet, carrot, orange juice, spinach, broccoli, ginger, celery, green apple, bell pepper, cucumber, and alfafa sprouts. This juice gets a big plus for the number of healthy fruits and vegetables packed into it. However, you really have to like beets and ginger to enjoy this juice, because these flavors dominate. If you can handle a bit of spiciness from the ginger and the earthiness of beets, than this juice is going to rock your liver-cleansing world. There is a pleasant slight sweetness to this juice that makes it very drinkable, though a bit heavier and stronger than the cleansing juice reviewed above.

Health: 4 out of 5 (would get a 5 if the fruits and veggies were organic)

Taste: 4 out of 5 (great flavor but a bit strong on the beets and ginger; some will love it, others not so much)

Smoothie (sorry, no pic for this one yet, but it is a light purplish color from the blueberries)

 This is an all-around crowd-pleasing fruit smoothie, filled with banana, blueberries, papaya, pineapple, soymilk, and orange juice. It is the sweetest of the three drinks in this review, which is to be expected from a smoothie as opposed to a juice. But the sweetness comes from the high fruit content, with some of my favorite fruits blended together! The blueberry/banana combo is always a winner, and the other fruits in this smoothie are an added bonus. The soymilk adds creaminess as well as some protein, though people trying to avoid soy products will want to pass on this drink. The smoothie is filling (though it is not huge—it comes in a regular 16 oz plastic cup), and is great on its own or to complement a meal (or as dessert, which is how I treat it when I order one!).

Health: 3.5 out of 5 (lots of fresh fruit, but probably not organic, plus high sugar content from fruit; also contains soy)

Taste: 5 out of 5 (super scrumptious!)

Take Back the Brunch: A Los Angeles Vegan Brunch Odyssey

It's time to celebrate, because Brunch is Back, and this time its VEGAN!

It’s time to celebrate, because Brunch is Back, and this time its VEGAN!

I love Saturday mornings. Especially the mornings when I sleep in until the sun shines warmly through the slits of my bedroom shades, softly waking me without urgency or force. When I finally do get out of bed I lazily sip a cup of tea and peruse some interesting articles online or read a book until I feel compelled to change out of my pj’s. Saturday mornings have a special aura of both relaxation and anticipation—the entire weekend still lies ahead, full of possibilities, and Monday only looms far away in the distance.

My favorite Saturdays (and Sundays!) are the ones where I go out for brunch. It’s not much of a stretch that sometimes I feel like I LIVE for brunch. I know that’s not healthy (physically or mentally), but I can’t help my obsession with the one meal dedicated to both savory and sweet, the best of both food worlds; where anything goes, but a few tried and true favorites keep you coming back again and again.

As a vegan, most of the restaurant brunch scene is either off limits or incredibly boring (you get to choose between the oatmeal, dry toast, or the fruit bowl—sans yogurt—while your friends gorge themselves with pancakes, French toast, omelets, bacon, and sausage). Well, my friends, I’m here to ‘take back the brunch’ for us Vegans, and those who just happen to like eating vegan food or expanding their horizons.

Luckily, Los Angeles is overflowing with vegan brunch options (apologies for those living in more vegan-impoverished zones). And while you can probably order something vegan in nearly any restaurant you visit in the L.A. area, I’m here to share with you some of the crème-de-la-crème of Vegan-centric brunch options this town has to offer—places that your non-Vegan friends will be just as thrilled to visit as you will be.

So join me in this on-going series where I will rate and compare the best vegan breakfast/brunch options around Los Angeles. Together, we can Take Back the Brunch!!

Full brunch

Doctor Vegan’s Superfood Muffins

Doctor Vegan's latest concoction, full of flavor AND nutrition!

Doctor Vegan’s latest concoction, full of flavor AND nutrition!

I am not a fan of oatmeal. There, I said it. I know that oatmeal is super healthy, and is supposed to be the perfect breakfast because it fills you up and provides you with fuel for the day. But I just. Can’t. Do it. The soupy, heavy texture is just not appealing to me, even with an assortment of fruity or nutty toppings. Oatmeal just seems to sit in my stomach and make me feel like a lump for hours. No thanks.

Oats, on the other hand, I absolutely love! Oats in granola, oats in pancakes, oats in cookies, and especially oats in muffins. I could eat a hearty oat-filled muffin every day of my life for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner). If you’ve read my review of Rising Hearts Bakery, you would have learned that while some of their desserts and breads really tickled my fancy, the apple oat muffin left a lot to be desired. It was cakey, overly sweet, and lacking in any real substance.

Muffins are NOT cupcakes. If I want a sweet dessert-like baked good, I’m going for the cupcake, not a muffin. Likewise, when I want a satiating, tasty, and nutritious baked good, I’m going for the muffin. Unfortunately, its rare to find a great tasting AND nutritious muffin at stores or bakeries. Typically I make my own.

Today I want to share with you my latest homemade muffin creation, the Superfood Muffin. Superfoods are foods that pack a huge nutrient punch (especially omega 3’s), and are good to incorporate into your regular diet. Berries, nuts, seeds (like hemp and chia), etc. are examples. In this recipe, I include avocado, chia seed, and goji berries, plus healthy flours, oats, and dark chocolate.

Some of the ingredients used in the Superfood muffin recipe. I try to buy organic and fair-trade as much as possible. The next step is to reduce plastic-packaged foods.

Some of the ingredients used in my Superfood muffin recipe. I try to buy organic and fair-trade as much as possible. My next goal is to reduce plastic-packaged foods. One step at a time!

I generally search for vegan muffin recipes online, then adapt them based on the ingredients I want to use or have at hand. The recipe below is adapted from Healthy Green Kitchen, but I’ve put my own spin on this already healthy recipe. I’ve exchanged one of the bananas with an avocado, blended a few flours and sugars, and thrown in some tasty add-ins.

I know a lot of people who are scared to play with recipes and change out ingredients. I am here to tell you to Go For It! There is no one right way to bake a muffin! If you like how it tastes, you’ve succeeded. Even if your muffins aren’t the best ever, at least you’ve experimented and tried something new. I change nearly every recipe I try, because I like to blend various healthy ingredients and see what happens once they get in the oven.

The recipe below resulted in superbly moist, hearty (but not too heavy), rich muffins that are slightly sweet but definitely not a dessert muffin. You can add or reduce the amount of sweetener depending on your preference (you can also try brown rice syrup, or a bit of molasses), play with different flours, and add in various additional ingredients, such as shredded cinnamon, coconut, dried, fruit, berries, chocolate chips, or nuts to perk up the flavor in various ways. If you avoid gluten, you could use almond and oat flours, or if you prefer more ‘classic’ muffins use wheat (preferably whole-grain) or spelt flours—I like to blend! GF flours tend to make for more crumbly muffins, so do a Google search for suggestions on how to blend. Almond flour is fairly versatile, whereas coconut flour is very dense and sucks moisture.

When making your own muffins, or any at-home food, I highly suggest investing in as many organic and fair-trade ingredients as you can. You will end up with healthier meals and be supporting more sustainable food practices. You can now find organic flours and sugars at most grocery stores and online, as well as organic coconut oil, nuts, chocolate, etc. Happy Baking!

Superfood mufins (minus 2 that were eaten immediately after leaving the oven).

Superfood muffins (minus 2 that were eaten immediately after leaving the oven!).

Doctor Vegan’s Superfood Muffins

*1 ½ cups flour (I used ½ cup almond flour, ½ millet flour, and ½ spelt flour)

*1/3 to 1/2 cups oats

*1 teaspoon baking soda

*1 teaspoon baking powder

*1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I use Himalayan sea salt for added health benefits)

*2 medium bananas, mashed

*1 ripe avocado, mashed

*1/4 cup maple syrup (Grade B has the most beneficial nutrients)

*1/4 cup coconut sugar, or to taste

*1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water

*1/4 cup coconut oil

*Optional (but recommended!): ½ cup chocolate chips (or chop up good quality vegan dark chocolate), and/or dried fruit, and/or nuts (I used chocolate, goji berries, chia seeds, and walnuts)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Rub a standard muffin tin with melted coconut oil or spray (Trader Joe’s has coconut oil spray).

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine bananas, avocado sugars, flax and water mixture, and melted coconut oil. Fold the flour mixture into the banana mixture, and mix until smooth. Fold in oats and other add-ins, if using.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan. Makes 8-10 muffins (I like to ‘over’ fill my muffin tins so I made 8 good sized muffins).

Enjoy! 🙂