I did it because I'm trying to find a way to manage my weight without relying on packaged diet food (which I can no longer stomach). My husband did it out of concern for his cholesterol.
Over the last several weeks, I've lamented that my part of the experiment wasn't very successful, at least from the weight management side of things. I've ballooned up to a point that has me feeling unhappy and depressed.
There are lots of reasons for that, which I've covered in other posts... and will likely rant about again, because it's the biggest thing on my mind right now.
But this week we learned that my husband's foray into veganism was wildly successful: After just four months, my husband's total cholesterol dropped about 50 points.
"This doesn't look like a profile of the same man," the doctor said.
Everything has radically improved: HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose levels.
Veganism agrees with my husband. He feels better and has more energy. The only issue is occasional boredom, especially when we're dining out. It isn't easy to stick to a vegan diet in a restaurant, where the offerings usually end up being kind of bland.
Last weekend, we discovered a great casual spot with good, inexpensive vegan food that will please even the meat eaters in the family.
The Orange County Register named Veggie Grill one of the area's best new restaurants when it debuted there a few years ago. Since then, the chain has expanded to seven locations, including its newest outpost, at the Los Angeles Farmers Market, which is where we were treated to a delicious lunch last Saturday.
The menu offers the kinds of things you would expect: sandwiches and salads, with plant-based proteins like quinoa, soy, nuts and gluten (all of which are optional -- the restaurant offers a guide to dishes for those who are allergic or sensitive to these items).
Fortunately, neither of us has food sensitivies, so we ordered the items we wanted to try:
I decided to start my meal with my favorite comfort food (which is also the dish that caused me the most trepidation): Macaroni and Cheese -- which of course, is not possible to make vegan if you're using classic egg-based pasta or actual cheese.
The elbow macaroni Veggie Grill uses is made of quinoa, which is gluten-free and protein rich... but it also gives it a tough texture and odd flavor ... or maybe that's the soy-based cheese sauce.
This dish wasn't bad -- but you'd never mistake it for the real thing. However, if I was to swear off "real" pasta and cheese sauce for the rest of my life (and I may come to that decision), this would help satisfy any lingering cravings for the stuff.
More successful were the sweet potato fries my husband ordered with his Papa Portobello Sandwich. The fries had a nice, crisp exterior and were served with a garlicky sauce that tasted to me like a spicy aioli (but is listed on the menu as Chipotle ranch dressing). Whatever it is, it was made without eggs or dairy (I believe it is soy-based).
"It tasted great and was just a little spicy," he said, adding, "this is something I would easily have selected to eat in my former cave-man, meat-eating days."
(The rest of his comments -- which he added to my notes -- are not to be taken seriously. But I promised him I would include them in my review):
This gives you an idea of what I live with.
It was delicious, refreshing and totally satisfying.
I probably should have ordered a dish that featured one of Veggie Grill's meat substitutes (branded Chillin' Chikin' and Veggie Steak), but I wasn't in the mood for that. I can tell you that while I was cooking vegan, I tried a number of vegan meatlike substitutes and discovered they were very tasty, and I have no doubt that the ones served here are similar. But I also sampled soy-based tempeh while I was vegan and did not care for that. I should probably return to Veggie Grill to see what they do with it, because judging from the dishes we did taste, I'm betting I will like it a lot better their way than the meals I tried to make with it.
Veggie Grill has a kid's menu and a nice selection of desserts, which we should have tried -- but to be honest, we were feeling kind of full after our entrees... and a little bit smug about it, because we knew that everything we ate was good for us.
Besides -- it's always nice to leave something for your next visit, which I predict will be soon.
DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation for this post and made no promises that the review would be positive. I'm hoping the folks at Veggie Grill open a place here in the Valley so I can visit more often.