Vegan Survival Guide to Austin Launch Party!

 

We’re having a party and EVERYONE is invited!

Join us at BookPeople (603 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin) on Wednesday, February 4th at 7pm to celebrate the release of Vegan Survival Guide to Austin! We’ll be there to say a few words about the book and sign copies. BookPeople will provide beverages and Counter Culture will provide snacks. Thanks so much to both of them for their kindness and generosity!

This book has been an absolute labor of love born out of a commitment to celebrate the people who work hard to make Austin a veritable vegan paradise. This party is an opportunity for us to thank everyone who shared their stories and helped make Vegan Survival Guide to Austin a reality.

Come out and raise a glass to all of the awesome Austin vegans in this book! BookPeople is also taking pre-orders for signed copies of Vegan Survival Guide to Austin. Order a signed copy right over here.

We hope to see you on February 4th!

 

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Vegan RAAAAAMEN at Daruma Ramen

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(post by Julie)

It’s Free Week here in Austin, the week when the city makes up for the mayhem SXSW inflicts on locals by letting us wander in and out of bars and music venues without paying a cover (or that’s the origin story I’ve heard, at least; however it happened, it’s a week of free music and I’ll gladly take advantage). It’s been chilly here and, while it wasn’t quite freezing last night, the forecast calls for some mighty low temperatures later in the week. The only way to prepare for the impending tundra was with soup. And not just any soup. RAMEN.

I’ve passed Daruma Ramen on Sixth Street many times, but had never ventured in before last night. The restaurant squeezes an impressive amount of comfortable seating into its small space. Two long communal tables fill up the room, with bar seating offered on either side. We pulled up a stool, unwound our scarves and ordered a bottle of sake.

I was pleasantly surprised to find not one but two clearly labeled vegan ramen options on the menu. I expected to have to do a lot of “Hold the egg,” and “You swear under penalty of Zeus that this is VEGGIE broth, right?” Nope. No such issues. My dining buddy and I ordered both vegan bowls.

I had the Veg Ramen, which is basically a bad ass salad on top of a bad ass bowl of noodles and veggie broth. Spring mix, carrots, grape tomato, red onion, scallions, fried onion, ginger oil and lime. I ate the whole damn thing. It was nourishing and satisfying and left me wondering why I haven’t been combining my soup and my salad my entire life.

My buddy had the Veg Miso Ramen. The broth in this bowl was rich and savory. The noodles were topped with a golden pillow of fried tofu and a pile of bean sprouts. My buddy also ate the whole damn thing, but not as fast as I ate mine.

This will now be a regular stop for me on a night out at the Red River bars. Nothing prepares your stomach for Lone Star and whiskey like a big bowl of floating veggies and noodles.

As for the music – we wandered into Swan Dive, peered over the fence at Cheer Up Charlie’s, and finally wound up at Mohawk where we caught a set by Feverbones. A good night all around. Cold weather, do your worst. I’ll just eat more salad soup.

Meatless Mondays at Counter Culture

How’s this for a happy new year – Counter Culture is now open 7 days a week. As of today, the restaurant is opening its doors on Mondays  to participate in Meatless Mondays. Special deals are being offered the first six Mondays of 2015, including, from night to night, free bowls of soup (which we ate tonight) desserts, drinks and a steep discount on your bill if you bring an omnivore in to fill up on meatless fare.

Meatless Monday is a national initiative launched by Johns Hopkins in 2003 to encourage people to eat without meat at least one day a week. The movement cites the positive impact a meatless diet can have not only on human health, but on the strength of our natural environment.

We’re happy for Meatless Monday because today means it nachos and french onion soup. Here’s what we ate at Counter Culture:

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You know what exorcises the demons that possess you after driving down 7th Street in five o’clock traffic? A giant plate of nachos. (PS anyone with nut allergies – the queso on this dish is oat-based, not nut-based. Chow down without fear!)

 

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FREE SOUP! Tonight’s Meatless Monday deal was, place an order for $6 or more, receive a free cup of French Onion soup (upon request). We love the croutons in this tasty, onion-thick broth. It was a solid little savory intermezzo between the nachos and the main event.

 

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The main event! What we had for dinner:

Spaghetti Squash and Beatball Pizza (on gluten free crust) – This is a filling, rich pizza with a dynamite sauce. The beatballs were big enough to cut up and spread across the entire pie. Squash on a winter night is one of life’s many pleasures and should be indulged at every opportunity. The beatballs and squash combined made for a most hearty dish.

Walnut Burger with some amazing greens we want to eat again right now – Let’s just start by talking about the greens; they had a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture and left just a touch of sweentess on the tongue. Perfect. Brilliant. A reason to live. These are good greens. The burger: this might be Carolyn’s new favorite item on the menu. Perfectly seasoned with a satisfying crunch, this patty proves that a veggie burger doesn’t have to consist of beans and mush. This is a burger to sink your teeth into. Important to note: the bun was also stellar.

Cold Cutz Sandwich –  Homemade, thinly sliced seitan on a long bun. The waiter was happy to replace the nut-based sauce on the sandwich with the same oat-based queso we had on the nachos.

We left no room for dessert, which is a shame, because the flourless chocolate cake with coconut whipped cream was singing its siren song something strong. This meal was totally worth the traffic. We hope Counter Culture finds it worthwhile to remain open on Mondays. We’ll be starting our weeks there and hope y’all will show them some love and do the same! You can follow their Meatless Mondays page on facebook to keep up with all of the mighty enticing specials.

 

 

We Have A Book! Vegan Survival Guide to Austin is Almost Here!

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We’re very excited to announce that our book, Vegan Survival Guide to Austin, is DONE and will be on bookstore shelves February 2nd! This was a labor of nothin’ but love (and lots of good eating). We’re so grateful to everyone who talked to us and helped us along the way. We’re very excited to share the finished book!

BookPeople, the best and biggest indie bookstore in Texas, is now taking pre-orders. We’re happy to sign and personalize books, just mention “Signed Copy” and the name in the comments field during checkout.

More news about our release party to come. For now, we’re busy feasting our eyes on this cover (we shot it at Carolyn’s house using a big bag of vegetables we bought at Wheatsville) and gearing up to start cooking tons of great vegan meals in celebration. This is the first book either of us has made. As both book lovers and booksellers, it’s a strange and giddy feeling to know that our words and photographs will soon be on shelves and in the hands of readers.

Huge thanks to everyone who took the time to answer our questions. We worked hard to gather as much of the history of Austin’s vegan community as we could, as well as capture its current spirit. Now the countdown to the book launch begins….

Help Rabbit Food Grocery Open a Brick & Mortar Vegan Grocery Store in ATX!

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We love Rabbit Food Grocery, the pop-up and online vegan food shop here in town. We’re SUPER excited to hear they’ve launched a Kickstarter to open a brick & mortar vegan grocery store in Austin! Imagine walking into a store where everything – EVERYTHING – is vegan! This would be the very first all-vegan store in the entire state of Texas. Y’all, we have to help them make this happen!

Their goal is not only to open up a vegan food store, but to become a central location for vegans in Austin. Events, parties, animal rights meetings, potlucks; their dreams for the future of Austin’s vegan community are big and very exciting to think about.

If you can, head over and donate to their Kickstarter campaign. They have 29 days to make it to $12,000. Let’s help them out!

 

 

Kale Hummus (Or, What Monday Night Miracles Are Made Of)

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(post by Julie)

I eat a lot of hummus. A LOT of hummus. Any time of day, any meal or snack, there’s nothing that seems to satisfy like the ground up garbanzo. My standard breakfast is hummus on a tortilla, toasted in a cheerful little omelette pan I picked up at Room Service on North Loop.

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Official morning hummus & tortilla pan.

I live with someone who eats about as much kale as I do hummus. His name is Nate. He has consented to having his picture posted here:

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Nate, aka Bunny Love Nate, aka Mr. Buntastic.

On any given night, it’s safe to say that you can open my refrigerator and find two things: kale and hummus. 

Of course, store-bought hummus, particularly in the quantities I tend to consume, runs more than a pretty penny (not to mention adds serious bulk to my recycling bin; those little plastic tubs go FAST). To save money, cut down on the mountain of plastic, and because food processors are fun, I’ve recently fallen back into the habit of making my own variations on the mashed up chick pea.

Hummus is one of my favorite things to make, in part because it’s just so dang simple. A can of chickpeas, a little lemon juice, a clove or six of garlic, a scoop of tahini and some spices and you’re well on your way to Hummus Town. (Yes, there’s an official dance for Hummus Town. No, I won’t do it here.)

As the long summer days have afforded me more time in the kitchen, I’ve been experimenting with new flavor combinations. Roasted zucchini, orange and yellow bell peppers, and smoked paprika have all been on the hit list. My real goal, though, has been to add not only flavor to my garbanzos, but to also pack in some serious nutritional punch.

Enter the Miracle of Monday Night. 

Hungry. Tired. Work-weary. I drop a handful of kale in Nate’s bowl and decide this is it. This is the moment. I’m going to do it. Kale in my hummus.

Ingredients (Quantities Approximate)

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup (maybe a bit more) chopped kale
3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon (maybe a touch more) red pepper flakes
pinch of salt

1 can garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon tahini
the juice of 1/4 of a small lemon
1/4 cup vegetable broth
pinch of pepper

What I Did (Instructions for a Miracle)

While the coconut oil warmed in a pan, I peeled and pressed the garlic on a cutting board. There was no need to chop the cloves, as they’re going into a food processor, but I like to press garlic to get its juices going. I dropped the cloves in the oil and let them cook long enough to let that garlicky goodness mingle with and infuse the distinct flavor of the coconut oil.

Into the pan: I added the kale and coated it in the oil, then sprinkled with salt and red pepper flakes and let it cook over low-to-medium heat until just wilted (about three to five minutes). Then I turned off the heat and removed the pan from the burner. The pan still had plenty of heat (not to mention the heat in the oil), so the kale did continue to cook a bit after I removed it from the flame.

Into the food processor: Garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, pepper. On top of that I added everything in the kale pan, scraping in as much of the oil as I could. Then I blended that baby until it was as smooth as I wanted it, stopping occasionally to taste for salt (it didn’t need any, though I’m not a salty cook and tend to use it more sparingly than others) and to add a touch more veggie broth for moisture.

Disclaimers: This does not make a smooth, creamy, store-style hummus. I don’t use enough oil or tahini to make that happen. What this does make is a hearty dip that bowled me over with its complex combination of the savory characters of coconut oil, lemon, garlic and, of course, my hero, kale. The texture and consistency reminded me of spinach artichoke dip. This is easily a hummus I would serve at a festive gathering just as soon as I would eat it with saltine crackers standing in my kitchen going, “Oh, wow. Wow. Wow.” Which may or may not be exactly what happened last night…..

Vegan Mac & Cheese with Roasted Sriracha Brussels Sprouts

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Perusing BuzzFeed yesterday afternoon, as a bookseller is wont to do at an info desk on a slow afternoon, I (Julie) came upon a list of a wide variety of things one can make with a bottle of Sriracha. The thought of using Sriracha as an ingredient as opposed to a mere condiment had never occurred to me. I am not what I would consider a Sriracha disciple. My taste buds were raised up North, and while my palette has evolved over the years, my tongue still balks at certain levels of heat. When I consume Sriracha, it is sparingly and with tremendous caution. More than once have I been spurned by that devil rooster.

Yankee palette aside, I am an adventurous cook. Perhaps stirred and combined, sauteed and baked, the rooster would demonstrate a different side of the scalding personality he presents straight out of the squeeze bottle. As I scrolled down the list, I hit first on the Buffalo Sriracha Hummus (holy pajamas, here’s a spoiler: that hummus is spicy!) and, with much enthusiasm, the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha-Honey Drizzle.

When I think roasted Brussels Sprouts, I think immediately of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Chipotle Mac & Cheese with Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Standing there at the info desk, I had fast visions of a life-changing collision of Sriracha sauce and nutritional yeast. My Saturday night was set.

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Roasting the Brussels Sprouts

I veered off course from the original recipe, which calls for sauteing and roasting the sprouts in coconut oil, salt and pepper, and then offering a mix of honey, Sriracha and soy sauce on the side for dipping. With dreams of sweet and savory little flavor bombs dancing through my head, I sauteed the sprouts in a cast iron pan and then poured the “dip” all over those suckers before putting the pan in the oven. They carmelized into crisp-edged little wonders. In hindsight, I will say I could have used more Sriracha. They weren’t quite as spicy as I’d expected, or perhaps my tongue had already been schooled by the heat of the hummus I’d whipped up earlier and so was better equipped to cope with that rooster. Even without the staggering heat, the sprouts were sweet and sharp and damn good for a recipe that took all of ten minutes to prepare and about a half an hour to cook.

Making the Mac & Cheese

Anticipating a strong flavor presence on the part of the devil rooster, I opted to leave the chipotle peppers out of the Mac and Cheese this time and instead substituted a roasted yellow pepper. (For that hummus I mentioned above, I tossed a roasted orange pepper into the food processor, which I firmly declare was an awesome decision, as that sweet, smoky pepper flavor was a comforting follow-up to the hot body of the rest of the hummus.) I am a big, big fan of this particular Mac & Cheese recipe. Normally, when I want my fill of noochy pasta goodness, I go the cheap girl’s route and dump nutritional yeast and a few seasonings into a pot of cooked pasta. But this was Saturday night and I had Brussels Sprouts and I was going all out, which meant I was soaking those cashews and pulling out my miso, baby. This cheese sauce is remarkably easy. You toss the ingredients into a food processor, hit “On”, dump the finished sauce on cooked pasta, add a few minutes of heat, and you’re done. Why don’t I do this all the time?

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The Finished Product

While the sprouts were mild, the sharp hint of the Sriracha was still there. Next time I think I’ll add two tablespoons of Sriracha to the sprouts instead of just one. The Mac was fantastic, as always, hearty and creamy and so satisfying. From start to finish, this whole meal took about as long as is takes to watch two episodes of Orange is the New Black, which includes pauses in the show to let the food processor do its noisy thing. It was a fine variation on a much-loved recipe.

I Was Not The Only One Intrigued By The Idea of Cooking With Sriracha

This meal was whipped up in the kitchen of an apartment where I was cat-sitting this weekend. There was curiosity on the part of the cat. There was, however, no tasting. Something tells me delicate feline palettes and devil roosters just don’t mix.

What Do You Do With Sriracha?

Eighteen hours after my vegan Sriracha adventure my tongue and taste buds are still here. I’m ready to try anything! Have you ever cooked with Sriracha? Share your success story. Or your epic failure. We don’t judge.

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.

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.

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.