Native Foods Cafe

With a menu that boasts of Native Chicken, Spicy Meatball Pizza, and cheesecake, Santa Monica’s Native Foods Cafe doesn’t sound like an all-vegan casual restaurant.  But after reading about it online, I had to try it out.  Two friends from out of town wanted to meet up for dinner, so I suggested the cafe, giving them fair warning.

“They have burgers, tacos, pizza, etc.  BUT it’s all vegan, so uh, if you and your friend want real meat, I’ll look up a different place,” I texted my friend.

“Wait, but this sounds awesome.  I’m vegetarian anyway.  Let’s do it,” was the response.

I remember talking to this friend about vegetarianism, but I had no idea he had actually embraced it since I had last seen him.


Entering Native Foods Cafe, the only indicators that this was a vegan restaurant were the cute, and sometimes sassy, slogans on employees’ shirts.  A standout?  “Eat sunshine.”

Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl

I wanted to try everything on the menu, but I settled on the Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl, a quinoa dish with grilled veggies and Native Chicken, their original chicken-flavored mixture of soy, wheat, and pea protein.  My friends both ordered the Portobello and Sausage Burger.

“We didn’t ruin our streak,” one of the boys commented to the other through a bite of his burger.

“Absolutely not,” my other friend responded.

“What streak?” I asked.

“Well, since we got off the plane, we’ve had amazing food.”


Of course, I had to sample the native desserts, especially after having so many “eh” vegan baking experiences recently.  I am a passionate chocolate lover, so I ordered their chocolate cupcake.  I even generously shared a bite with each of my friends.

As an added bonus, an employee came by and offered us samples of their carrot cake cupcake.  Every bite melted in my mouth, giving us all a sweet finish to a satisfying meal.

For a complete list of Native Foods Cafe, sprawling across California and the U.S., visit their site.

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Filed under My Journey, Pit Stops - Eating Out

Volunteer Day at Farm Sanctuary

The cloud which had provided shade for the other volunteers and myself had finally receded, and my shirt clung to the sweat on my body.  I paused from shoveling cow patties – a more polite name for cow dung – to slowly approach the beautiful animal pictured below.

I scratched his head and then massaged his neck, enjoying being in the presence of such a calm, powerful creature.  In response, he licked my leg with his sandpaper tongue, and then proceeded to douse my shirt in a generous amount of cow saliva.

Saturday, I had the privilege of volunteering at Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres in Acton, California.  Although the weatherman had threatened us with a heatwave, the sky remained overcast until lunch.

I hadn’t been sure what to expect.  My family and I visited Farm Sanctuary a few months earlier, at my request, and when I heard they organized volunteer days, I quickly signed up.  Sadly, the volunteer party days are only once a month, so I had a two month wait before I returned to the sanctuary as a volunteer.

A broad spectrum of people came together to form the group of twenty-two volunteers for that day.  A couple wearing shirts with loud vegan slogans, a trio of friends, a quieter pair around my age who was seeing the sanctuary for their first time, and plenty of individuals like myself, people who came simply to make a difference and spend some quality time with animals that you don’t get to see every day.

Peeking out from his freshly cleaned barn

We spent the first few hours cleaning out the cows’ and pigs’ barns (above).  Using shovels and rakes, and protected from the dust and smell with thick face masks, we emptied the two barns and refilled them with clean hay.  Then we repeated the task with the goats’ and sheep’s barn.  For safety reasons, the cows and pigs had to leave the barns before we cleaned them, but the goats and sheep were free to roam around.  They interrupted our work to beg for some pets, they wandered in and out while we shoveled, or they stared at us as we spread clean hay throughout their home.

Afterwards, it was time to set up the potluck lunch.  One requirement for volunteering at Farm Sanctuary was to bring a vegan potluck dish.  As one volunteer commented, “It’s nice to know that you can eat everything without worrying.”

Apart from spending time with the animals, being a part of this (mostly) vegan community was great.  Usually I’m the lone vegan, and suddenly I felt like a part of a group.  No worry, no judgment, and a sense of support.  I’ve found similar qualities in the online blogging world, but experiencing it in my real, physical day, having people sitting next to me who wanted to talk about vegan foods, politics, etc., was amazing.  If you have any suggestions for how to find vegan communities in the non-virtual world, I’m all ears.

A restful hour later, we turned to our final task: picking up the cow patties.  When I toured Farm Sanctuary, this cow pasture was one of the areas the tour group wasn’t allowed in because there was a chance that Mr. Ed, the largest bull and protector of the herd, would charge.  However, as a volunteer, I was allowed to carefully make my way out into the field and work around Mr. Ed.  He calmly lounged as us volunteers moved around, and he let us pet the other cows.

Mr. Ed

Volunteering at Farm Sanctuary allowed me to get dirty and reconnect with nature after a week of sitting at an office desk.  I bonded with a lovely goat named Maria, felt connected to a vegan community around me, and got up-close with animals that some people never see in a lifetime.  While I began eating a vegan diet for health reasons, developing a deeper sense of respect for animals has been a welcome and inspiring side effect.



Filed under Big Issues, My Journey

Computer and Cake

I accidentally murdered my poor computer last week by knocking over an exceptionally tall glass of water.  I immediately placed it in an airtight container full of brown rice and left it for two days.  Amazingly, it turned on!  But I soon found out that, in spite of its brightly smiling screen, half of my logic board was destroyed, and water had caused corrosion in every part of my baby.

So I write this post from my newest darling, also called a $1199 setback.


On a happier note, I followed through and made my own Mosaicake from Veggiewitch’s site.  However, I didn’t use unbleached flour, since I was trying my best to make the cake from things I already had in the cupboard.

My mom and I each filled a cake pan with pastel-colored batter.

And thank goodness, they turned out pretty darn beautiful.

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My only issue is that the cakes turned out very dense, and I’m not exactly sure why.  Delicious, but not quite as light and fluffy as I was hoping.  But since this was my first time making any cake from scratch, let alone a vegan cake, I was very happy with the results.


The day after baking this cake, I killed my computer.  So this cake was the best way to console me.  7 pieces of it, to be exact.  Whoops.

The only solution for accidentally murdering your laptop.


Filed under Baking, My Journey

Iowa, Meatless Mondays, and Twitter

I love when something riles me enough that I itch to blog about it.

Apparently, there’s been some hullabaloo over a USDA interoffice newsletter.  As reported by Time Magazine (and brought to my attention by blogger feministka’s post), three measly paragraphs in the newsletter offered information on the Meatless Monday campaign and suggested that employees looking to minimize their impact on the environment try some of the vegetarian options in the USDA cafeteria on Monday.

However, this mention of Meatless Mondays caused quite the Twitter uproar from the beef industry, including a response from Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley.  (I highly recommend reading Time’s articles, linked to above, for the entire story.)  His tweet is as follows:

While I think the comment from Nicholas Mitchell sums up the tweet beautifully, I was a bit hurt by his statement.  You can eat as much meat as you want.  Hell, I’ll even tell you what my favorite meat dish used to be (thinly sliced steak with a fried egg on top, thank you very much), but call the Meatless Monday movement stupid?

Perhaps he’s just saying that it’s stupid that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is recommending Meatless Monday.  Alright.  But, it says that the USDA’s mission statement includes “improving nutrition and health by providing food assistance and nutrition education and promotion.”  Can’t a suggestion to try a different diet, one with more vegetables even, is included in that?  Especially if that diet only occurs one day of the week?

If you read my previous Really, USDA? post, then you know I don’t entirely believe in the efficacy of writing to elected officials.  Yet I do see a point in writing just to get my voice notched as another tally mark that wrote in upset about Grassley’s Meatless Monday comment.

Contact Iowa Senator Grassley here:

And if you’re actually from Iowa, bonus points!

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Filed under Big Issues