VSG Q&A with Cool Beans

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This week we took advantage of the absurdly warm Austin weather to hit up the brand new 100% vegan food truck on East 7th, Cool Beans. Here you’ll find authentic Mexican cuisine made with natural and organic ingredients and served up on adorable plates made from vinyl records.

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It was a sunny, windy day when we visited, perfect for sipping Topo Chico and remembering why we love Austin (beautiful weather, easy vegan lunches, imminent tacos). We dove into the Tamale Plate (organic sweet corn tamale, served with house made pepita coconut cream and a side of Mexican rice) and two of their “signature tacos”: The Warrior (quinoa chorizo, cilantro and onions) and The Native (Hearty Vegan garbanzo tempeh marinated in their homemade authentic al pastor sauce and topped with seared pineapple, fresh onion and cilantro).

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While there are plenty of vegan taco and Tex-Mex options in town, Cool Beans stands apart as a place to order up authentic Mexican cuisine made vegan. Dishes are prepared according to family recipes that have been handed down for generations. The spelt tortillas for the tacos were fresh out of the fryer and the Mexican rice was simple perfection.

The truck’s operators are very active on social media. Be sure to follow them to keep up with daily specials and a variety of vegan sweets (including fudge!!!) occasionally on offer.

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We had the chance to ask the Cool Beans crew a few questions about their menu, their decision to set their wheels in Austin, and what it takes to establish a food trailer in this town.

VSG: What brought you to Austin from Brownsville? Why did you decide to set up shop here?

CB: Well first off, we are very big fans of Austin. We noticed how vibrant and supportive the vegan community is here, and we are happy to now be a part of it. In Brownsville, we were forced to cook our meals daily because there were very few vegan options. This blessing in disguise made us quite the chefs and pros at vegan cuisine. A lot of our inspiration came from our favorite meals that we had growing up. These include tacos, tamales, beans, and rice because we are of Hispanic heritage. Visiting Austin, we had some great variations of vegan tacos, some ranging from simply grilled veggies to creative fusions. After many vegan tacos (we call it research and development…and it was delicious! lol) we felt it was our obligation to bring our tacos to Austin and showcase our take on authentic Mexican classics.

VSG: What prompted you to open a vegan Mexican food trailer in the first place?

CB: We love the food truck scene here in Austin!! We figured it would be a great start for Cool Beans. The idea was sparked by family and friends (all non-vegan) whom motivated us to open our own food truck.

Our food left such a lasting impression on our family and friends that they would rave about the meals that we realized the good impression the food left on people. We loved the idea of doing that every day for a living. Reviewing our options, we preferred the versatility and practicality of owning our own food truck.

VSG: What’s it been like opening a food truck from scratch in Austin? What have been some of the unexpected challenges and pleasant surprises?

CB: We got to build our food truck and design it to meet every one of Austin’s health codes in order to receive the permit.

We took a few extra measures to make it more efficient and professional. The City of Austin is friendly to food trucks and made most of the information easy to access and there is usually an inspector available for anything else. We actually converted the truck so, while it was a lot of work, we got to design it to our specifications and needs. The challenge right now is the weather, the cold and rain is not helpful for food trucks and we have been seeing that first hand. We are pleasantly surprised at how happy our customers are that we are open for business. Many are learning about us online and coming to try us out. We are grateful for that opportunity.

VSG: What distinguishes Cool Beans from other food trailers and vegan eateries in town?

CB: We bring authentic Mexican taste to the vegan market, prepared with recipes that go back several generations. Everything is made from scratch from the tortillas to the seasoning mix and marinades. We avoid artificial colors and flavors, buy BPA free cans, and avoid ingredients we do not know about and consume ourselves. There is nothing like a freshly cooked handmade corn tortilla. Anyone who has experienced one will testify. We are fans of all the vegan eateries in town but what will distinguish us from the rest is the taste. We take recipes passed down from our heritage and make them vegan in a way that still celebrates the history.

VSG: What’s your specialty? What’s your favorite item on the menu?

CB: We are excited to bring our homemade Q-rizo (as we call it) to Austin. This is a soy-free gluten-free organic quinoa based version of one of our grandmothers’ famous chorizo recipes full of authentic flavor and perfect consistency. People are creating a buzz about our homemade tortillas. The desserts we offer are vegan versions of favorites, like Masapan (Mexican peanut candy) and fudge. Our favorite taco on the menu is ”the Native” made from locally sourced garbanzo tempeh in our homemade pastor marinade topped with seared pineapple served fresh organic cilantro and onion wrapped in our corn tortilla, thus encompassing Cool Beans in one taco. We are big advocates of the organic and local movement, and we try our best to offer as much organic and local items as possible. Our tortillas are made from local and organic masa and spelt. We buy our tempeh from Austin’s own The Hearty Vegan which in our opinion is the best out there right now. The pastor sauce can be dated to the Mayan civilization, and is a huge staple of Mexican flavor. We marry the old with the new and bring you, The Native!

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Get out there and sample Cool Beans!

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Q&A with Bistro Vonish

Bistro Vonish Lunch Menu

(photo courtesy of Bistro Vonish facebook page)

This week we finally caught a free hour to check out Bistro Vonish for lunch. Proprietor Craig Vanis recently launched the trailer as a precursor to the brick and mortar restaurant he hopes to open some time this year. We’ve been eager to sample his unique high end vegan fare and took advantage of the first (long awaited) sunny day this week to head over to Manor Road and place our orders.

We pulled up a seat at the orange picnic tables and dug into the Hoppin’ Jean Polenta with Seitan and the Apple Arugula Pizza.

Craig was kind enough to take the time to answer some of our questions about the trailer, his plans for the brick & mortar, and why he’s bringing gourmet vegan dishes to Austin.

VSG: Tell us about Bistro Vonish. What distinguishes you from other food trailers and vegan eateries in Austin?

CV: Bistro Vonish offers an elevated approach to vegan cuisine, with inspired dishes that showcase local, seasonal produce.  We’re always working to get the freshest flavors from Central Texas farms onto the menu.

VSG: How did you get into the field of fine/gourmet vegan cooking?

CV: I actually started my professional life as a mechanical engineer, graduating with honors form the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and working for several years in everything from building jet engines with GE to the oil fields of East Texas.  When my entire department was laid off, I took that as an opportunity to go anD pursue what I was truly passionate about: vegan cookery.  Within nine months of this transition, I was managing my first restaurant kitchen with my own menus out.  From there I’ve worked in a couple raw foods kitchens, a couple bakeries, restaurants, farmers markets, and more.  What began to really stand out was the way we experience food not only as nutrition, but also as social and emotional creatures.  I want to help create moments for people to sit and enjoy a meal that brings them closer to their friends and family, that brings back those warm feelings of eating in grandma’s kitchen, or something else that is new, interesting, and entertaining.

VSG: Where do your recipes come from? How are they developed?

CV: One thing I remind myself of continually, is that I am not the first one to create a recipe.  These foods have many, many long, storied traditions and cultures deeply intertwined with them.  I look to take inspiration from places like my Czech heritage, and carry them into the modern world I find myself in.  When a recipe goes from something fundamental to something that I can call my own, it has been made over and over again, continually thinking of where it could use improvement, then trying it over and over again with this new approach.

VSG: Why did you choose to set up shop in Austin?

CV: I swore to myself ten years ago that I would never drive in snow again.  But Austin has quite a bit more to offer than its warmer climate, though the year round growing season does make it a pretty ideal place for local foods.  Austin IS a place that is young enough, as a city, where there is still a lot of room for a new idea to take off, but is established enough that there is infrastructure and establishED communities to support these new ideas.

VSG: What’s on the menu this season at BV? What recipes are you excited to work on/develop?

CV: Right now we’re doing an Apple-Arugula Pizza with candied walnuts and a mozzarella mornay sauce as the base, and a Butternut Suppli with butternut risotto formed into a croquette, pan seared, and served over collard greens, sweet potato, onion, and pickled cranberries.  I’m very excited by both those dishes.  It’s always fun finding ways to bring seasonal flavors into the sweet and savory kolaches we create here every day.

VSG: What are your plans for a vegan brick & mortar fine vegan restaurant in Austin?

CV: Bistro Vonish started as a supper club (something we are still looking to do periodically), and has moved into the trailer.  Once we move into the brick and mortar, we’d love to keep the trailer going with the kolaches and its own seasonal menus.  The full restaurant, however, is a tremendous opportunity to create a complete, start to finish, dining experience with service, ambiance, and beverages aimed at matching the quality of the food.  We’re keeping our eyes out for the right moment and space to move to the next level.

For more about Bistro Vonish, check out their website and follow them on facebook.

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.

 

 

What We’ve Been Eating

The last few months we’ve been busy writing, editing and finalizing the manuscript for Vegan Survival Guide to Austin. The process has been consuming. We devoted every spare second to researching and fact-checking, then whipped out our red pens and turned into editing machines. There was a solid day devoted to debating the Oxford comma and a whole week spent trying to take a single photo in which we looked like Authors. Here’s the closest we got:

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All of this activity meant we didn’t have a whole lot of time to cook (which we love) and then blog about that cooking (which we also love). Of course, we still had to eat. So, with little else to report besides the very exciting fact that you can now pre-orderVegan Survival Guide to Austin via bookpeople.com, here’s a round up of what fed us while we put our noses to the grindstone and got serious about book-making.

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Behold the Screameo, love child of Skull and Cakebones and NadaMoo! In the midst of intensive book writing in early October, Julie thought it’d be a keen idea to try out this whole ACL thing for the first time. For those of you unfamiliar with the event, the Austin City Limits music festival is an annual round up of big time music acts that play a series of stages in a downtown park. ACL draws many, many, many, many, many revelers inside its gates, a factor which Julie perhaps did not consider so well when she merrily began her trek to Zilker Park to see Jenny Lewis, Mac Demarco, St. Vincent and Beck. In addition to seeing all of those acts, she also saw three million other people also there to see those acts. But oh! She also saw her salvation: the Screameo. This little handheld dream brings together Skull & Cakebones cake and NadaMoo! coconut-based ice cream. These sweet sandwiches (reminiscent of the Chipwiches Julie devoured trolling Long Island delis as a kid) are currently only available at festivals and other pop-up adventures.

Let it here be said: Julie did not have a good time at ACL. But if Screameos are promised as part of next year’s lineup, she may actually consider enduring the masses again. Those suckers are good.

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Nom nom nom Vegan Nom. Not long after Julie’s ACL misadventures, Carolyn swung by The Vegan Nom truck on North Loop to snag a final few pictures for VSG. It’s been rough, you know, how we’ve had to show up to work and sometimes work is tacos. Really freaking tough.

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Oh, Nice ‘N Full! Carolyn rolled up to their Rosewood trailer on a Sunday afternoon and sipped a surprise slushy wine while waiting for her Chicken Nugget Burger and dirty rice. Y’all, we cannot tell you how bummed we are that the kind folks of Nice ‘N Full have packed up and headed back to Houston. It was with deep regret that we took them out of the book. We wish them all the best! Suppose we’ll just have to ride down to Houston one of these days to get our fix.

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We didn’t eat this. This was our first look at a draft of the book layout. Joining the text with the pictures hit it home. We made a book! An actual, honest to god book! It was about this time, maybe a few minutes after the excitement subsided, that panic begin to set in. Oh my god, we made a book. A BOOK that people might READ. There better not be ANY mistakes in it. Cue the red pens….

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How do you start a long day of editing? Carolyn prepared with Chkn’n waffles made from Gardein chickenless tenders with a homemade gravy based on a recipe from The Happy Herbivore cookbook. Because nothing gets the brain juices flowing like bites of waffle soaked in gravy. Nothing.

Somewhere in this span of time, we shot the cover for the book. We had some ideas in mind and, working in a bookstore, we were able to snap a few shots of covers we liked and send them along to History Press. Of course, we didn’t expect to have a ton of input. Traditionally, authors don’t have much of a say one way or another in terms of the face the publisher puts on their book. But after browsing the Cooking section at BookPeople, we had a vision. So, cognizant that it could all be for naught, one night we popped into Wheatsville, bought up their produce section, went back to Carolyn’s house and shot some set ups.

We were thrilled when History Press sent over the cover for approval. They’d used one of our shots! Not only that, they’d taken one of Carolyn’s photographs and built a vibrant, eye-catching cover around it. All of our book folk friends gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. Huzzah!

VSG cover

Of course, there were a few design concepts that didn’t quite make it. Here are a couple versions of a Texas flag made of veggies and lima beans.

They didn’t quite make the cut, but we still found them darling.

Oh, hey, then Thanksgiving happened.

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Carolyn hosted a vegan T-gives potluck at her house. Julie got down with the Isa Does It cookbook the day before and launched into a full-scale attempt at Pot Pie and Chocolate Molasses Cake. She also adapted a Smitten Kitchen recipe and made a vegan crispy sweet potato roast. And cranberry sauce. It was Thanksgiving, y’all, and we’d just spent two months building a book. We were celebrating.

The finished feast:

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By the time we made it through Thanksgiving, we were just about done with the book. The heavy edits were made and we went back and forth with the good folks at History Press about minor details such as color scheme and layout. With no research to do, food to photograph or histories to write, weekends began to be filled with normal things again like breakfast bagels.

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That there is a sprouted bagel stacked with marinated, pan-fried tempeh, avocado and miso spread. Yup.

 

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With time on our hands, we’ve gotten back to a bit of cooking. Julie spent a night crafting what is hands down the best vegan mac and cheese she’s ever made. So there’s that.

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There’s even been time for impromptu weeknight suppers like kale and Hearty Vegan tempeh stir fried with garlic, pomegranate molasses and rice vinegar. We even made it to the ATX Vegans Drink Christmas party at Cheer Up Charlies! Holy socializing, Batman!

We’ve had a wonderful, hectic experience the last few months. Now, we gear up for the big release. Vegan Survival Guide to Austin will be on bookstore shelves February 2nd, 2015. There will be a party. You’re all invited. Right now, BookPeople is accepting pre-orders through bookpeople.com. (Please, please, PLEASE only buy this book from an independent bookstore. Amazon is doing everything it can to strangle the book industry and make it impossible for people like us to earn a living while taking on creative side projects like writing this book. Please don’t help the Evil Empire along.)

What else are we doing? Cooking again. And eating the best vegan food, always. And thanking our lucky stars for the opportunity to make this book. And lobbying Skull & Cakebones to sell those Screamos in six packs at Wheatsville…..

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!

 

 

Keepin’ Busy, Eatin’ All The Food

It’s been a busy August in these parts. We’ve set out to eat all the vegan food inside of Austin. ALL OF IT. We’ve hit up food trucks, restaurants and bakeries for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. One might think that perhaps we have a deadline coming up for our book…. And one would be correct. Here’s a fast smattering of some of the amazing food we’ve consumed this month at Austin’s fine vegan eateries, all in the name of book writing.

Pulse Vegan

Behold The Philly, The Frenchy (with a side of au jus for dipping!), home fries and mac & cheese (cheese made in-house and without nuts for you folks with allergies)
from Pulse Vegan in South Austin.

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Shhmaltz

We hit up Shhmaltz one Friday afternoon on our lunch break for some fantastic Jewish deli fare. Julia Hungerford is churning out some fine pickled vegetables, vegan potato salad and master sandwiches out of her truck behind Farewell Books. Love that you can call ahead to get your order started. (And that she keeps the Topos ice cold. Dog days are upon us, y’all.)

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Casa De Luz

We treated ourselves to a Tuesday night supper at Casa De Luz, an Austin institution tucked just south of the river. Way more than a restaurant, Casa De Luz offers a macrobiotic eating experience focused on community, good health, integrity and fantastic organic food.

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Conscious Cravings

We found more lunch break bites at Conscious Cravings. We hit up their location in the South 1st food trailer park. Want a quick way to pick up your work day? Rosemary fries. Yes. (PS – that Eggless Tofu Salad turned into three meals. Yeah, leftovers!)

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Sugar Circus

We fell in love with darling Sugar Circus Bakery on East 5th on a Sunday afternoon. We left their cute, circus-themed shop with two big boxes of goodies that held vegan cupcakes, cookies and a slice of vegan “cheese” cake with chunks of chocolate. Book writing is sooooo hard, y’all.

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The Juice Well

The Juice Well in Rosewood saved us one sunny Sunday morning. This sweet Airstream trailer serves up a variety of sandwiches featuring their own trailer-made seitan, pickled veggies, juices and smoothies. Merlin’s magic, a blend of carrots, ginger, caryenne, apple and lemon, cured all the ailments that morning. Also helpful towards reviving our weary souls was Juice Well’s cheerful, friendly atmosphere. We loved sitting out under the palm tree sipping our drinks and watching the sun play in the windchimes.

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Mr. Natural

Mr. Natural on Cesar Chavez was a great way to start a work week.  Breakfast tacos and a breakfast sandwich with veggie bacon and tofu scramble set us right on a Monday morning. (And coffee. Plenty of coffee.)

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Arlo's

Oh, Arlo’s. Is there a better way to sink into a weekend than with a Bac’n Cheeze Burger and Tater Tots from their truck? (So glad they’re open again!) Add a kale margarita from Cheer Up Charlie’s and we are happy, happy campers.

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Believe it or not, there is way more food to come. It’s incredible how many vegan eateries Austin has to offer. We’re wowed by the number of options we have on a daily basis. We’re living in vegan Paradise, y’all.

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

contract

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.