Keepin’ Busy: An Update From the World of Book Building

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Every once in a while we hope to post a little update about how this whole book writing process is going. This week we had another official check in with our publisher, History Press, which means we’re looking back at the last month of life as co-authors of Vegan Survival Guide: Austin, TexasAh, the memories….

We’ve been busy since we signed the contract, y’all. Emails, visits, photos, ice cream, crab cakes, vegan grill outs; it’s all sort of a blur. We’ve contacted well over a dozen businesses, including Sweet Ritual, Wheatsville, Mother’s, Bouldin Creek, Casa De Luz, and Unity Vegan Kitchen. Many folks have been kind enough to offer up their time to answer our questions. We have plenty more businesses on our list we’re working to contact. In the mean time, we’re doing our best to let folks know what Vegan Survival Guide is all about. The response from the vegan community here in Austin has been so supportive and positive. We’re grateful to everyone who has wished us well and helped us out as we follow through on our mission to document vegan history and culture in the Capitol City.

We’ve also been eating. A lot. And it’s been awesome.

So far, in the name of Vegan Survival Guide, we have eaten: 

Texas Caviar (made from the recipe Bryant Terry’s book, Afro-Vegan).
Creole-Spiced Plantain Chips (Afro-Vegan)
Sweet Potato & Lima Bean Tagine with a side of All-Green Spring Slaw (Afro-Vegan)
The Tarzan Salad (Bouldin Creek)
Enchiladas filled with chorizo and topped with a chipotle sauce, pumpkin seeds and vegan cheeze (Bouldin Creek)
Tofu Broccoli Salad with ginger/miso dressing (Bouldin Creek)
Vegetable Noodle Soup (Xian Sushi & Noodle)
Chocolate Banana Bread (recipe from Isa Chandra’s Post Punk Kitchen)
A dish of mint chocolate chip ice cream (Sweet Ritual)
A cone of Bananas Foster (Sweet Ritual)
Vegan Grill Out!!! Corn, vegan sausage, guacamole, beets, carrots, so very many vegetables
Tofu Scramble with kale, red peppers, shallots & #garlic (recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook)
Chocolate Molasses Cake (inspired by a recipe in Isa Does It)
Hearty tacos filled with sautéed collards and sun dried tomatoes with crispy tempeh (Home cookin’)
Tempeh Reuben with a side of Pac Man salad (Counter Culture)
Midnight Lasagna (recipe from Veganomicon, renamed to suit our late night cooking schedule)
Do-It-Yourself Salad (Wheatsville)
Popcorn Tofu Po’ Boy (Wheatsville)
Tofu Scramble with Potatoes & Tempeh (The Vegan Nom)
Muffuletta with cashew cheese & olive tapenade (Unity Vegan Kitchen)
Vegan Crab Cakes with caper aioli (Unity Vegan Kitchen)

We’ve been sharing what we’re eating and who we’re meeting on instagram, facebook and twitter (and, of course, on this blog).

It’s also worth noting that in our other life, we’ve been slinging a heck of a lot of books. BookPeople has had one of its busiest Spring seasons on record, so we’ve been darting from places like Wheatsville and Sweet Ritual to events with people such as Jimmy Carter, Garrison Keillor, Arianna Huffington, Alicia Silverstone, Nolan Ryan, Roxane Gay and so many others. It is absolutely true that these two non-stop booksellers have been fueled by some of the best, most nourishing vegan eats in our fair city; by nutritional yeast and kale, we have survived.

What’s next? We keep emailing, keep meeting and talking, keep letting folks know about Vegan Survival Guide. And of course we keep sampling Austin’s wide variety of vegan fare. Because life is awesome and book building is fun.

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Just Chocolate Cake? No Such Thing

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Last week, when I was supposed to clean my apartment, do my laundry and be a productive adult human being, I took a look around and realized it was the perfect moment to bake a chocolate cake.

First of all: chocolate.

Second of all: cake.

Third of all: I realized I had all of the ingredients to make Isa Chandra’s recipe, Just Chocolate Cake, thanks to the banana bread I’d made the week before. Well, I had almost all of the ingredients….

I didn’t have apple cider vinegar. Or baking powder. Or almond extract. But I was not to be deterred.

So let us commence our lesson in How to Survive When Chocolate Cake is Required But the Cupboards Aren’t 100% Cooperative.

First, I googled a substitute for baking powder. I knew that baking powder could be substituted in a recipe, but not baking soda, so I was hopeful. I found a substitution that called for slightly more baking soda plus 3/4 cup molasses. That sounded about perfect, molasses in a chocolate cake. Even more miraculous: I had molasses!

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So that was the first victory. Then came the issue of the apple cider vinegar. The recipe calls for a teaspoon, which is used to curdle the milk (I used almond). A teaspoon, huh? Well, that couldn’t really be about flavor, I figured. Hello, white balsamic vinegar!

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The almond extract…. Well we’d all just survive without it. I expected the molasses to be a prominent enough flavor that I wouldn’t miss the almond extract. Plus I used almond milk…. that counted for something? I’d paid moderate respect to the almond?

Because the molasses added both liquid and sugar to the recipe, I cut the canola oil and granulated sugar (I may have mentioned in a previous post that I almost always cut the sugar in a baking recipe and I almost never miss it). I also added more cocoa powder to balance out the strong presence of the molasses.

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I made a deal with myself about this cake. I told myself that I’d done my best, I’d improvised and I’d taken a chance and whatever may come was the result of a noble experiment in creating some version of chocolate cake in an apartment where there had been no chocolate cake before.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to tell you: That risk paid off.

The first flush across the tongue was chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, followed by a second, subtle wave of rich molasses. The flavors overlapped and ultimately merged in a divine decadence I kept tasting… and tasting… and tasting. Hey, I had to be sure I wasn’t fooling myself and that this improvised vegan chocolate molasses cake was, indeed, as delicious as it clearly, absolutely, blissfully was (to throw a few adverbs your way).

Of course, every cake needs an audience. I gave Carolyn half the cake wrapped in foil the next day. Sitting in the manager’s office at BookPeople, she pulled back the foil and took a few bites.

Carolyn’s reaction: I decided after breaking the ice with that cake this way that I’d continue to eat it like a sandwich until it was gone. It reminded me of being a kid and drinking wine from the bottle at parties.”

The take away: when you want it bad enough, chocolate cake is possible.

The baking soundtrack: Beck’s Morning Phase.

Sunday Brunch: Tofu Scramble, Sweet Potatoes, Kale & Mimosas

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The day after our big ol’ vegan cookout, we went ahead and had a big ol’ vegan brunch. Because nothing feels better the day after a backyard party than sipping mimosas with your friends while preparing all the tofu you can eat.

Our brunch was inspired by a cookbook that Carl, BookPeople’s main man in Receiving, recently brought to our attention. (Carl is a veggie savant, for the record. He pickles his own vegetables and builds the most enviable break room lunch salads. He also makes his own vegan truffles. Carl is a god among men. When he points us toward a cookbook, we listen.)

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Oh She Glows is a cookbook based on Angela Liddon’s exceedingly popular blog (which was named “Best Vegan Blog” by VegNews, FYI). The blurbs for this book are remarkable:

“Angela Liddon knows that great cooks depend on fresh ingredients. You’ll crave each and every recipe in this awesome cookbook!”

—Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Isa Does It

“If you can choose only one cookbook this year – Oh She Glows is it! Angela’s approach to vegan recipes is fresh, vibrant, and simple… and her connection to her readers honest and real.”

—Dreena Burton, author of Let Them Eat Vegan!

“An amazing thing about Angela’s recipes is that you completely forget that they are vegan. The Oh She Glows Cookbook is filled with indulgent nacho dips, doughnuts and veggie loaves – food we never imagined a healthy, vegan version of. It’s an inspiring reminder that there are no limits to vegan cooking.”

—David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl, authors of Vegetarian Everyday: Healthy Recipes from Our Green Kitchen and creators of the blog Green Kitchen Stories

After paging through the book and considering, among other things, the Out-the-Door Chia Power Dougnuts (a POWER doughnut, okay? It was exciting!) We went with the Sunrise Scramble with Roasted Home Fries & Avocado Toast. Only we substituted tortillas for toast, because this is Austin. And we turned the avocado into guacamole, because again, this is Austin.

The scramble called for some of our favorite things, including plenty of nutritional yeast (we may have added even more than the recipe called for because sometimes nooch just happens), kale, shallots, garlic (we may have also added more garlic than called for….), red bell pepper and cremini mushrooms.

We cooked the mushrooms for quite some time, pulling out as much  moisture as we could and letting those little guys really bulk up on the garlic and shallot flavor. While the creminis simmered down, we popped a few rounds of cubed sweet and russet potato into the oven. We also made the guacamole. Normally, this particular guac recipe (owned and operated by a good friend) would feature Roma tomatoes, cilantro and red onions, but because this dish was a game-time decision, we raided the contents of Carolyn’s fridge and came up with a trio that did us just fine: salsa, parsley and shallots. We have no regrets.

While the mushrooms, potatoes and guac did their respective things, we also drank mimosas and Chameleon Cold-Brew with Steve Martin (in spirit).

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Scrambling tofu is pretty easy business. We broke down a couple of containers of extra firm tofu into the mushroom mix and then went to town seasoning. Because, yet again, this is Austin, we added a bit more heat than the recipe called for. Carolyn threw in some cayenne, chili powder, red pepper flakes and cumin before all was all said and done. This is the beauty of a scramble; it is versatile. Oh, and let’s not forget the kale. Look at this colorful beauty.

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In addition to the potatoes and scramble, we also added some cubed watermelon to our plates, which was more than welcome on one of Austin’s first 90+ degree days.

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We had eight people at our table for brunch. Half of them were vegan. The other half had zero complaints. In fact, they had seconds. BRUNCH SUCCESS!

Do you scramble? How do you do it?

Recent Eats: Sweet Ritual

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Last week we sat down with Amelia, one of the founders and owners of Sweet Ritual, to learn about the history of our favorite vegan ice cream joint and, you know, eat some vegan ice cream….. Maybe a lot of it.

We pulled up a few chairs to one of the outdoor tables Sweet Ritual shares with Juiceland and talked about Amelia’s Toy Joy roots, which flavor is the most popular, and the seasonal trend to ice cream eating in this town (despite the fact that, for some of us, ice cream season is most definitely year round). It’s clear that ice cream-making is a lot like the bookselling Carolyn and I do during the day; you’re in it because you love it. We love that Sweet Ritual is doing well enough to have recently bought another freezer, which has allowed them to expand their offerings to sixteen flavors at a time. We also love their facebook and instagram feeds, where they keep us up to date on the flavors of the day. (You can find ’em on twitter, too.)

Of course, we tried some ice cream while we were there. When “ice cream for dinner” can technically be described as “working on the book”, you know you’ve settled yourself into the right gig.

Carolyn went for the mint chocolate chip. I took on a double decker cone of Bananas Foster and Cherry Springer, which Amelia described as their take on Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Garcia. And then all the world rejoiced. Or at least that’s how it felt sitting out on the corner of Duval and 45th, cone in hand on a breezy, sunny, not at all too hot Austin day, watching the wind wave the flags over yonder at the Flag Store.

Thanks to Amelia and Layla for serving up our scoops! These ice cream slingers certainly have their technique down. It was impressive to watch them dig up enormous scoops and then successfully balance them, one on top of another, in a cone that did not fall over from the massive weight of all that ice cream. That’s straight up skill, y’all. Just look at how happy it made us.

 

Vegan Cook Out!

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Over the weekend we celebrated the warm weather and Julie’s 33rd birthday with an all-out vegan cookout. Is there anything better than organic carrots hot off the grill? No. Unless you want to talk about fresh corn on the cob.

Our strategy for grilling is simple: olive oil, salt, pepper and foil packets when needed. We took a chance on the beets, neither of us having popped those purple gems on the grill before. They would have done better in a foil packet. But it’s okay! Cooking and grilling and life is all about diving headfirst into new experiences, right? Even if it means mourning a few unfulfilled beets along the way….

We met with great success when it came to our darling little Brussels Sprouts. We put them in a foil packet straight away, where they cooked into tender little morsels that we then threw face down on the grill to give them a little char.

We made it through the fabulous sprouts, the beet debacle and a whole lotta veggies with more than a little help from our friends, whom we thanked profusely with perfect carrots and perfect beer on a perfect, sunny Saturday in Austin.

Here are a few shots from the day. With the temperature on the rise and a long Texas summer ahead of us, this likely won’t be the last Adventure in Vegan Grilling we’ll have to share with y’all.

(PS – Surefire way we please the vegans and non-vegans alike: Field Roast Sausages. We picked up a few packages of Italian and Smoked Apple Sage at Central Market (you can also find them at Wheatsville). Full of flavor and totally vegan, they rounded out our veggie feast quite well.)

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 Happy It’s-Already-Summer-in-Texas, y’all! Have any great vegan grilling tips? Share them with us! We’d love to give new techniques a try. 

Marbled (Birthday) Banana Bread

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Recipe: Marbled Banana Bread, courtesy of Isa Chandra and Post Punk Kitchen
Soundtrack: Bill Callahan – Dream River; Lou Reed – New York; Smog – Supper

Yesterday I (Julie) turned 33. I celebrated as all responsible 33 year olds do; by drinking whiskey and baking banana bread.

The goal was to find a recipe both simple and delicious. I hopped onto Isa Chandra’s blog, The Post Punk Kitchen, and took a look at her Quick Breads. Bingo! Marbled Banana Bread. It looked like the Entenmann’s marbled loaf I used to eat for breakfast growing up on Long Island, only, of course, eight thousand times better. It also looked like my style of baking – a few ingredients, a few simple steps, and I’d be in banana bread land.

The first step was to mash three bananas into sweet, sweet banana goo. I went to town on three organic bananas I’d picked up from Wheatsville a couple of days ago. I beat in almond milk, vanilla, canola oil and then a bit less sugar than the recipe called for. I almost always cut sugar in recipes and so far, I’ve never missed it. The bananas tasted sweet enough on their own, so I took a chance and went with just under 1/2 cup sugar instead of 3/4 cup (which already seemed like a light load itself, because Isa is a smart baker).

I separated out a cup of the banana goo into its own bowl, then went on to mix three tablespoons of boiling water with three tablespoons of cocoa powder. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve bought cocoa powder and I expected to have to pay top dollar for some fancy, all natural powder that wouldn’t fill me up with crazy chemicals. But then it turned out Hershey’s Cocoa was just that – powdered cocoa and nothing more. Who knew! I mixed the chocolate with the reserved goo and here’s how it looked:

Now it was time to marble! I was excited to marble. Marbling was a new baking frontier for me. Now that I’m an experienced marbler (Marblier?), I can attest to how easy, fun and pretty the little method is.

Banana bread was one of the treats my mom used to make in our apartment kitchen, a feat of baking she brought with her from her North Dakota girlhood. I’ve never attempted it on my own as an adult. Oh my goodness, is this whole thing a sign of my 33-hood? Have I officially crossed some line into my Midwestern Mom’s lineage and will now bake on a regular basis because I’ve finally realized how not totally hard making something as grown up as Marbled Banana Bread actually is? Wow, y’all, I think this is going to be a big year. I can see it now. Crisps. Crumbles. Cobblers. Today I looked at a recipe for baked donuts! IT’S REALLY HAPPENING!

Whew, okay, existential tornado swept aside for a moment – let’s get back to celebrating this banana bread. Because look how it turned out:

It was rich, creamy, chocolatey, perfectly sweetened, and all around the best thing I have ever coaxed out of an oven. What I loved most (and repeated all day to coworkers who shared the bread with me, or at least what was left of the loaf by the time I’d eaten both birthday dessert and post-birthday breakfast) is that this thing was really made of bananas, not a ton of flour and sugar and whatever else your standard bread recipe calls for. So really, it was totally okay to eat more of this bread for lunch today. Right before we went to Sweet Ritual for conversation and ice cream…. Hey, this is what birthdays are for, right?

And for the record, the whiskey was Bullet Bourbon. And here’s a favorite Bill Callahan song to eat your next slice of banana bread by: