Monthly Archives: January 2011

Congratulations Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts Graduates!

On Friday I was invited to a tasting from the graduating class of culinary students at the Natural Epicurean Academy. The academy is a plant-based intensive training program here in Austin Texas and I was really excited to get to attend. One thing that our city is totally lacking is a fine dining establishment that is totally vegetarian so I was giddy with excitement tasting all of the students wonderfully thought out dishes. It was like being a judge on Top Chef except I wanted to eat everything. And there was minimal drama. It is a good thing I wasn’t judging because I never would have been able to decide on a winner. We started with a homemade kombucha and I think moved on to a little appetizer of cherries stuffed with ginger to get things going. I thought it sounded like an odd combination but I really enjoyed it. 

Then we tried a mushroom soup with roasted vegetables and rosemary. I thought they gave me a handout that had all the descriptions of  every dish so I didn’t take any notes but rest assured that there were some wonderful mushrooms in this dish. It was so intensely earthy and mushroomy and I think it had a cashew base because it was very creamy and didn’t have any off tastes. 

Then we tried the beet terrines which had roasted vegetables and crunchy sage chips. 

Next we tried the samosas. They were very different from the standard Indian  restaurant variety. They were only briefly fried and the stuffing had French lentils (I think) along with the peas, and just a little bit of potatoes. They were very delicate. The chef had also made three different dipping sauces that were one of my favorite parts of the whole tasting. There was a tamarind one and a cilantro cashew one that was just cilantro and cashews pulsed with lime. It was so tasty and vibrant. 

Then we moved on to the BLTs that had, standing in for the bacon element, a crispy salty dried coconut meat strip. 

and they also had plantain and parsnip chips on the side with a chimichurri avocado dipping sauce that I will have to try and recreate at home. It was just fabulous.

Then something happened that I don’t even want to tell you about because you might get totally jealous. But we tried three different kinds of truffles, one with mint, one with chipotle and one with candied beets. They were so creamy and fabulous. I hope that whoever made them starts selling them all over town. Or throwing them at people just to make the world a better place because they were lovely.

We finished with a little pomegranate spritzer and were on out way. I hope that the graduates from the Natural Epicurean will stick around town because I think they could really add a lot to the Austin restaurant scene. Congratulations and good luck!


National Vegan Pizza Day!

When I first found out that January 29th was vegan pizza day I was kind of awestruck by how many vegan cheese options that we have in Austin now. It seems like only yesterday that the Parlor was the only spot for a luscious pie. It is still my favorite because they also have vegan meat and green olives.

But now we also have Conan’s, Mellow Mushroom, Zpizza, Hoboken, Whole Foods, Casa de Luz, Rockin’ Tomato, Beets, and my other favorite Promise Pizza.

In addition to making pies and calzone’s at Whole Foods they also have premade takeaway pies so you can dress them any way you want (I went with 7 kinds of olives) and bake them at home to make your dogs jealous.

If you are so lazy that you want someone to bring a pizza to you we now have that as well, even if you live in South Austin like me. Conan’s Pizza is even running a free Daiya cheese special for the rest of January so ACT NOW! 

Also on Saturday the Health Alliance for Austin musicians is having a big benefit party. They are going to have free spaghetti and marinara, vegan donuts, AND if you want to bring something vegan, they will deep fry whatever you want. And they are showing the Karate Kid.

Now we just need someone to start carrying the Teese vegan mozzarella sticks.

or a Mexican Pizza topped with Food for Lover’s vegan queso

The Veganomicon, a review

This post is part of the ppk’s 2011 cookbook challenge.

It seems silly to even review The Veganomicon because I feel like most people already have it. That probably tells you more about my circle than anything else. Or that I spend a lot of time in the vegan blogosphere. Or that everyone I know is awesome.

I have seen posts about this book where people try and cook from it for a week, or even a year. I have seen people debate if it is really the ultimate vegan cookbook. (My answer, yes) I think a big part of the reason for all the chatter is that it really did usher in the change. The Veganomicon took vegan food from a health food or animal rights niche to a full on cuisine which in turn helped both those causes. When the Veganomicon came out just a couple years ago it mingled with the vegetarian cookbooks on a shelf at Book People. Now vegans have a whole case in the store and there are so many titles coming out every month that us vegan food bloggers and food enthusiasts can’t keep up with them.

I have read that the Veganomicon is difficult for beginners and I have to disagree. I have personally recommended the book to so many folks who don’t know their soft tofu from their silken tofu and they have all seemed pretty happy with it. It is my boyfriend’s favorite cookbook and before he read the Veganomicon he only made pasta. He tells his friends & family about it and then they get it and wander off to whole foods looking for porcini mushrooms and unground nutmeg. It is true some of the recipes are involved but when you sink your teeth into the Moussaka or the Caluliflower and Mushroom Pot Pie with olive biscuit topping it will all be worth it I promise.

a piece of amazing pot pie

I recommend the book to beginners all the time because if you actually read it you will learn everything you need to know about vegan cooking and if you still can’t figure something out it is the only book in the world (well that I know of) that has a whole forum of friendly people who have tried every recipe and will tell you what to do and give you advice if you are confused.

There are a lot of simple recipes that have blown my mind like the olivey roasted red pepper and eggplant goodness of the Muffulatta Sandwich

or the SmokeyGrilled Tempeh that you can use the same marinade for your greens for easy cooking.

There are recipes for breakfast (or brunch or dinner) like the Asparagus Tarragon Quiche 

There are instructions for how to marinate and grill portobellos and any other vegetable you would ever want to grill and  recipes for simple summer eating like the best barbecued tofu ever 

There are holiday standards like cranberry sauce and new and amazing holiday recipes like carmelized onion & butternut roast chestnut casserole. 

There are dishes for things I never in my life would have thought of like Gazborsht (a cold soup that is a cross between gazpacho and borsht that is fabulous on a hot day with just picked tomatoes) or Lemongrass Asparagus risotto

and there are recipes for things that we make so regularly we hardly have to look at the recipe like Mac Daddy and Chickpea Cutlets (which you can make with lentils if you are short on time and money)

There are even recipes that you can serve people who really do not want anything to do with vegan food but end up enjoying anyway like fried eggplant rollatini

and recipes for things you can stack up like broccoli polenta and Braised Seitan with Brussels, Kale and sun-dried tomatoes

There are side dishes, sauces, dips, appetizers, basic recipes like seitan, desserts, bread, muffins, breakfast and even ice cream. Almost any occasion you could ever  think of you can find a recipe in the Veganomicon which makes in invaluable for everyone having a party or a family.

Now I realize this review is starting to sound like a goddamn commercial so I will tell you what I don’t like too. For one, I wish the recipes were each on their own page, preferably with a picture like Vegan Brunch. I hate having to flip back and forth when my hands a million times to read the ingredients. I also think the estimated preparation times are completely inaccurate and vary so widely that I try to not even look at them. But maybe that is because sometimes I cook like lightning and sometimes I can’t find my food processor. My version has a couple of serious typos and things that we omitted but I bet later versions have corrected this. And there are some recipes I haven’t liked but I still always have complete faith in trying new ones because I am constantly amazed by the Veganomicon.

If you haven’t picked up a copy I recommend you check it out. If nothing else you’ll probably laugh a lot and be inspired to make some really good food even if you don’t  usually cook. If you aren’t vegan or vegetarian you can still get a lot out of this book, there are recipes in here for almost every vegetable and tons of easy soups and side dishes. If you like food and you are curious to see what vegan cuisine can be this is the one to read.

Appetite For Reduction, a review

This post is part of the ppk’s 2011 cookbook challenge.

I’ll admit it there are a few things I am a fangirl about.  I realized books by Isa Chandra Moskowitz got added to the list when I knew the date that her new book was coming out and ran over to Book People to buy it rather than getting it cheaper from Amazon. I am sorry to say that this time it wasn’t because I was trying to shop local or save money. I got the book at Book People because I knew I could get it there quicker than if I ordered it. And yes, I have a million cookbooks.

Honestly, besides my fandom I was especially excited for the this cookbook because I have had a lot of trouble losing weight, even as a vegan. For one thing I eat too many fillers (rice, pasta, beer, and bagels) which all have a lot of calories. This has been hard to accept because I feel like I eat really healthy. I mean I eat kale several times a week and I am not a big sweets person or a baker. And I make almost everything from scratch. But for some people I guess it just isn’t that easy. We feed our dogs the same amount and one is perfect size and the other is always putting on pounds. Sure, some of this is because he gets into the trash, but mostly it is that they are different dogs. 

Being vegan and loving to cook different things every day also makes calorie counting so much more difficult for me. It is really easy to look up the calorie info in ready made foods and chain restaurants and enter it. Easy enough, anyway, until you die of a heart attack. It is not so easy to enter in a vegan pot pie that has a crust, a sauce, 10 vegetables that you don’t know the weight of, and random ingredients that are never in the databases like nutritional yeast and soy cream. When everything in your meal is homeade, like seitan sausages, you have to add them all too, bit by bit. Someone needs to make a vegan calorie counting site. Someone a lot smarter than me. Anyway enough complaining, I can figure it out it just takes some motivation and now Appetite for Reduction has made things so much easier because all the nutritional info is right there. It inspired me to start keeping track again and I have been very successful, losing a pound a week since I got the book. Even during Christmas! I have been using this phone app called LoseIt that is super easy to use and log things,  it is the first thing that has worked well for me since going vegan .

The book starts with a nutritional primer that was co-written with a vegan nutritionist and athlete who not only knows his stuff, but also seems to have all the most up to date info and makes it really easy to understand. I think this would be a great book for anyone starting out on a vegan diet, even if they are doing it solely for animal rights reasons or because they want to eat healthier but not necessarily lose weight.

The book is divided into sections after the nutrition bit; salads, sides, veggies, beans, tofu & tempeh, pasta, soups, curries, chilies & stews and then guides for sandwiches and bowls.  So far I have tried many of the recipes and most of them have been very successful and very filling.  Usually when a recipe says 4-6 servings I hope that it will be enough to feed my partner and I but these have actually worked well for my appetite, partially because I make a side as well. Note that my partner eats a lot and he has been having two servings of everything and I take the 4th with me for lunch the next day so your results may vary.

One of my favorite really quick and easy meals has been the buffalo tempeh with mac & trees. Although it isn’t the most photogenic recipe it was so good that I have already made it twice. Mixing broccoli made the macaroni healthier and the tempeh was just fabulous, the creamy mac & trees went just perfect with the spicy tempeh. The whole meal took less than 20 minutes start to finish.

The Arabian Lentil Soup was also really easy and made out of pantry stapels. The comforting lemon and rice mix was perfect for the dreary winter days we have been having.

The Lentil and Eggplant Chile Mole made with fresh cornbread  was very hearty my partner is a big mole fan and he really liked it. I loved the cornbread which had scallions and fresh corn inside.

I also loved the mushroom sauce in the creamy mushroom pasta. I want to put it on everything. It would be really good on the caulipots (mashed potatoes with cauliflower) recipe.

We also tried the black-eyed peas with plantains where the plantains are steamed instead of fried. They were suprisingly good!

Overall I don’t think the recipes are as omg brilliant as the ones in the Veganomicon, BUT (and this is a huge but) they are healthier, use less fat, use more vegetables, don’t have as many ingredients, and can almost all be actually prepared in 30 minutes, although some need to cook after that none of them take longer than an hour from start to finish. It is healthy, easy, tasty weeknight food. If you have the Veganomicon it is kind of like the mix and match segment turned into a whole book.

I also really like that there is information on how to steam vegetables, how to make quick bowls with your leftover dressing, and make sandwiches.

Plus it is named after a guns and roses album.

Honestly, if you were going to get just one vegan cookbook, I would say this is the one to get.

Dinger VS the cold

It got really cold the other night so I had to cover up a just planted fig tree in preparation for a freeze. Later while I was making dinner. I heard Dinger barking. I finally went outside to see what he was freaking out about and saw he was barking at the blanket, from across the yard. I love my dog.

I haven’t been leaving the house very much due to the chilly weather. I have been staying in, sewing and doing cross stitch, cuddling with beagles, drinking hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, and rewatching Battlestar Galactica. If only we had a fireplace life would be perfect. I have also been doing a cookbook challenge since I recently got so many new cookbooks. My plan is too cook from each cookbook for a week and then write a review for the blog, Library Thing and Amazon. I also want to start working on my garden the second it starts getting warmer, hopefully next weekend.

Austin Vegan Top 10 for 2010

2010 was a great year to be a vegan in Austin. We went from having one vegan restaurant a couple years ago to having at least 3 trailers and 4 restaurants not to mention new options all around town at non vegan restaurants and vegan cheese everywhere. Last year, for veganmofo, I made a top ten list for my favorite dishes to eat in Austin and almost my whole list has changed since then! So, in honor of the calendar rolling around to another year here is my favorites vegan dishes for this year.

1. Whatever is on special at Counter Culture

This all vegan trailer on North Loop is one of the most beloved spots in town for a reason. The regular menu is great but the specials like tempeh reubans, quesadillas made with cashew cheese, or meatloaf sandwiches that change every week are what keep us coming back day after day. My favorite is the holiday sandwich; Salisbury Seitan, Cranberry Sauce & Gravy all on a toasted loaf. Delicious.

2. A Hot Wrap from Conscious Cravings

It is hard to say which is my favorite, the spicy chickpea wrap is out of sight. The Bella has olives, daiya cheese, and Portobello mushrooms and I adore it even though I don’t even like daiya cheese. But, I almost always get the Chimichurri Seitan which has the most amazing sauce. All of the wraps are on an amazing toasted pita/tortilla and they are reasonably priced, even with a side of baked rosemary fries. You can try the cold sandwiches, salads, smoothies and specials, they are all great too, but for me, the hot wraps are one of my most favorite things to eat in town.

3. The Lemongrass Tofu Bowl at LuLu B’s

This little trailer on South Lamar isn’t known for their service. Sometimes you have to wait for an hour. Sometimes you try to call in your order for an hour before they pick up the phone. Sometimes they give you fish sauce even though you ordered the tofu and they have a delightful veggie sauce. Luckily the food is so good that none of this matters to me. Well I’m willing to put up with it anyway. I love the Bánh mì, the smoothies, and the spring rolls. But, the lemongrass tofu bowl is amazing. I don’t know how the make such fantasic tofu, it is pressed so thin and then marinated and grilled in a way that I have never replicated at home. The texture is lovely. Everything in the bowl is so fresh, the herbs and greens always taste like they were just picked and the sauce is really amazing, just make sure you say no fish!

4. Southern Comfort Food at Wheatsville Co-op

The number one thing that vegetarians recommend to people traveling to our fair city is the popcorn tofu at the Wheatsville Deli. It is battered with spices and nutritional yeast and deep fried and they always have a big pile that you can box up and take home or eat on the spot in a popcorn tofu po’boy.

the sandwich comes with all the regular toppings that you choose along with some cashew tamari dressing that you can also buy there, and then put it on everything. It makes white rice taste like a rainbow. All of their southern food on the hot bar is great. I love their vegan mac & cheese, spicy greens, and tempeh chili, the latter especially when it is in a frito pie with nutrtional yeast sprinkled on top.

5. The Tofu Scramble at Bouldin Creek

My most favorite spot in town, Bouldin Creek moved to a new location this year and though I will miss the old spot immensely I am happy to report that the tofu scramble is as good as it ever was. It is probably the greatest tofu scramble in the world. Although Bouldin isn’t a strictly vegan place, everything on the menu can (and should) be made vegan because their tofu scramble is better than any egg ever could be, trust me. You can get the scamble in place of egg in any of the omelets or the breakfast sandwich or the breakfast tacos. And they are open until late at night.

6. Breakfast Tacos from Whole Foods

The Whole Foods chain started in Austin and we have the flagship store just a couple of blocks away from my office which can be a good thing and a bad thing. If you are visiting Austin for the first time it is a great place to check out even if you go to Whole Foods all the time. My favorite part is the breakfast taco. I have blogged about it probably more than any other topic because, like I said, it is a couple blocks away from my office and my coworkers and I have a rule that if you are going to be really late you must bring tacos. Sometimes they are cold and sometimes they have too much turmeric. Sometimes you have to wait in line for twenty minutes (tip: get your coffee first) but when they are on the whole foods taco is the highlight of my day. If you don’t enjoy it the first time, try try again. They have vegan chorizo, tofu scramble, roasted vegetables, lime rice, refried beans, black beans, and all sorts of toppings like vegan cheese and pico de gallo.

7. Tater Tots at Dog Almighty

Dog Almighty is one of my favorite places when I am craving fast food. They have vegan hot dogs and burgers but I keep going back for their chili and especially their tater tots. There is just something special about these tots, they are so crispy and fried and perfect every single time. If you are sick of salads and raw restaurants this is the place to go. If you are looking for something healthy in the neighborhood the Juicebox (the soup peddler and daily juice combo) is right on the other side of the parking lot.

8. Veggie Meshi – at the Eastside King

the Eastside King is a tiny little trailer in the back of a bar called the Liberty on the east side of town. They have beet fries and all sorts of other Asian fusion type stuff at this fabulous late night spot. There are only a few vegan options but the veggie meshi is one of my favorites. It is a huge portion of brussels sprouts and cabbage stir fried in a delicious sauce on top of rice noodles and they are open pretty late. I love it.

9. The Freeto Burrito at the Vegan Yacht

Another great trailer on the east side. This one is all vegan and everything I have had has been great.

they have taken frito pie to the next level by adding avocado and sticking it in a grilled burrito. The perfect late night food.

10 Vegan Empanadas at the Fair Bean

The Fair Bean is probably my favorite coffee shop in town they have a great selection of roasted beans to buy along with chocolate chip cookies and other vegan treats. The breakfast emapanadas are like a dream come true. The crust is so buttery and flakey and the vegan sausage and potatoes inside hit the spot when you dream of a toasty breakfast, if they don’t have any on hand they can always add more to the hot plate, you just have to wait a while.

Best Austin Product

The new queso from Food For Lovers is so good that the jar of it can easily become a single serving. And they serve it at Guero’s if you want queso out in the world! (ps ask for the vegan menu their)

Gone but not forgotten

We also lost quite a few places that I loved this year like TaKorea sailed off into the sunset and Fete Accompli went back to catering only. Hopefully someone will take their place soon for best vegetables in town 😦

If you think I missed something I probably did. There are only ten slots! I couldn’t even add my favorite ice cream at Toy Joy or avocado margaritas at Curras or the hot wings at Iggi’s Texitarian this year! If you are traveling to Austin I have a complete list of vegan options over here.