Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Never Tire of Homemade Ramen

A little homemade ramen for lunch today with garlic bok choy, homegrown radishes, and a medium tofu.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Schools Cater to the Gluten-Free Crowd

I was just checking out the elementary school in the Round Rock ISD next to where we will soon live and for some reason I found myself clicking on the school lunch link. You know they have a gluten-free menu but absolutely nothing for vegans or vegetarians? Sigh. I'm not planning on sending my children to this school, but still.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Young Vegan Activist?

One of my son's school teachers (his favorite, Miss Emily) told me that she took a vegan lunch for herself and ate with Leo, 4, today. They had a discussion about being a vegan. Is this the start of Leo's vegan activism?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How Do You Recognize Vegan Kids?

How do you recognize vegan kids? When they descend like a pack of rabbits on a head of fresh lettuce at the sound of a package of tofu being opened. Seriously, my children are the only people I know who beg for raw, uncooked tofu. They also get excited about vegetables at random. Yesterday, all they wanted to eat at dinner was bok choy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Like Tofurky? Yes, I Do.

For years and years, I hated nooch, but I eventually came around. Now, I could not imagine our pantry without it. For some reason, I have also long despised Tofurky (even as recently as last year), but since Wheatsville was serving it with their other Thanksgiving stuff this week, I found myself adding it to the stuffing and mashed potatoes I was buying. I really enjoyed it and even went back for more. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Do Not Worry, Squirrels. We Are Vegans.

So, Leo and his mother were looking out the window and talking about the squirrels. Anita mentioned that they were afraid of humans. Leo asked, "Why, Mama? Do they think we are not vegan?"

Thursday, November 13, 2014

So, My Son's School Made Him Handle Eggs

So, my son's school had a cooking activity today, and they made him cook with eggs. They did not make him eat it, but they did make him handle eggs. They were making kolaches. They know we are vegan, but I guess we have not made ourselves clear enough. Do I really have to go through this every year with every new set of teachers? Sigh. I just emailed the teachers asking them to let me know ahead of time, and I can send my son in with substitutes for these products. I hope I did not sound like an angry vegan, but I am pretty upset.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

So, They Want the Vegans to Go to Fundraising Dinner

Years ago when a cousin was about to get married, she promised a special vegan meal for us at her wedding. It is was extremely thoughtful of her, but the meal ended up being grilled portabellas, bell peppers, and maybe squash. It was disgusting, and it was definitely cooked on the same grill as the meat products, which made it inedible. Now, our son's school has an annual fundraiser with no apparent accommodations for vegans. Tickets to the event are $150 each. I can't help but think we would be getting another plate like the one I mentioned if we went. For that kind of money, we better be getting Craig Vanis quality cuisine.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who Needs Meat When You Have Cucumbers?

I just thought I would share my wife's moment of brilliance. We have been buying the Field Roast mushroom deli slices for some time now, and while I think they are OK, I have never gotten excited about them, that is until my recent sandwich. Anita made a sandwich with the deli slices, raw onions, raw spinach, and cucumber slices. It was not until I had this sandwich did I realize what had been missing in the deli slices for me: textural resistance. The cucumber takes care of that, so the next time I get one of those obnoxious questions about how I replace meat in my diet, I'm going to say cucumbers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Isa's Sunflower Mac Is a Hit

I just made Isa Chandra Mokowitz's sunflower mac recipe from Isa Does It. It was fantastic, and it is nut-free (important for school). I didn't quite follow the directions because I had only roasted sunflower seeds. I just combined all of the sauce ingredients into my VitaMix and then cooked it in a sauce pan for a while. I finished it off by baking it with broccoli and topped with bread crumbs. It worked out. Next time, I might follow the directions to the letter. http://www.theppk.com/2012/02/sunflower-mac/

Review: Kebobalicious Full of Promise but a Bit Disappointing

I was on my way to Unity Vegan when I got distracted by a place called Kebobalicious off of Barton Springs Road. My wife and I got a sudden craving for a falafel wrap. I was excited about the fiery sauce they had listed on the menu, but I ended having to forego that because the sauce had dairy in it. I was able to get a sriracha sauce, though, to give it heat. I had to substitute the tzatziki sauce with tahini. It was a decent falafel wrap with lots of lettuce, onions, and tomatoes, but the falafel itself was a bit mushy and not full of flavor. It was nice to try something new, but I was a bit disappointed we didn't make it to Unity instead.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pinch Cooking with the Ghost Chili (Yum) and Missing Real Jalapeños

I finally got around to trying the ghost chili pepper. A few months ago, my wife had bought me a bottle of the pepper, which came dried and smoked. The first time I smelt it, the aroma reminded me of jalapeños. Even though I had this information, I was reluctant to try the pepper, probably because my association with it as being something Indian, so my first experiment, according to my subconscious, probably should have been with an Indian dish. Also, admittedly, I was a bit afraid of the pepper. For the past few years, though, I have been really missing real jalapeños. I haven't found a real jalapeño since I lived in the Rio Grande Valley at the southern tip of Texas. Those peppers are full of flavor and heat. The variety mostly available most everywhere else in the United States was developed by Texas A&M to have less heat, but it also has less flavor. The real jalapeño flavor is something special, which you would understand if you have ever experienced it. In the Rio Grande Valley, we could get the real jalapeño from the pulga in Brownsville directly from people connected to small growers in Mexico. I actually remember the first time I had one of those Mexican jalapeños. When I moved to Brownsville from the Austin area, I thought I really had an affinity for spicy food. I used to put a lot of store-bought jalapeños in my food, the more the better. I thought I was immune to the capsaicin effect. I tried to cook the same way with a bag of jalapeños from the pulga. The first dish I made was inedible because the heat was too intense. After a while, though, I learned to cook with these jalapeños, and I grew really addicted to their taste. I noticed that the delicious papas a la Mexicana tacos from our local taqueria were insanely hot (but bearable) and had the jalapeño flavor even more pronounced than I had been familiar with before. I realized that the jalapeño flavor was delicate and could easily be overwhelmed by other flavors. The trick was to avoid using too many other flavors. The taco I created had a simple sautéed tofu with nutritional yeast and salt and potatoes with ground Mexican chili powder (a type of paprika that isn't hot), roughly chopped jalapeños, and onions. Avocado slices are excellent in this taco. It is a really simple but extremely flavorful taco, if you happen to be able to get a hold of the real Mexican jalapeño (the kind of chili powder is important, too). A&M jalapeños are worthless and flavorless for this dish, hence my longstanding jalapeño deprivation depression. I made this taco with the ghost pepper this time, and it was quite delicious. I was a bit cautious with the pepper to avoid making an inedible taco. It had a nice smokiness and was a bit reminiscent of the real jalapeño, but it was different. It was nice and had a sustained heat to the taco. I would definitely make these again. I am still depressed about not being able to get my hands on the Mexican jalapeño, but the ghost pepper works really well in a pinch for this taco.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Found at the Giant Asian Store: Vegan Beef Jerky

I should totally start a game of interesting vegan things found at MT Supermarket. Here's hot vegan (beef-style) jerky. I'm not going to buy it, but it is fascinating. It's hard to not look at.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Those Liberal School Officials Shoving Vegetarianism Down Americans' Throats

Scale back on meat? Hell no, that's un-American. Oh, Todd Staples. To the elected crazies in Texas government, there is only one thing worse than atheists and pro-choice advocates: vegans. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/10/todd-staples-meatless-monday_n_5800568.html

Bring Back the Waffles: A Plea to Unity Vegan Kitchen

I can't stop thinking about those amazing waffles from Unity Vegan. They were so good during its first birthday celebration the other day. I picture it as the perfect brunch item topped with fruit and vegan whipped cream. With those large trees and its proximity to Zilker Park, a Saturday or Sunday brunch at Unity would make it the weekend place to be for Austin vegans. (Crossing fingers and toes)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Who Needs a Drive-Through? Austin Has Drive-Up Service

We may not have every vegan convenience there is to have, but Austin is about as close at it gets. San Antonio has their Earth Burger with its drive-through. Austin has the Vegan Nom and the Vegan Yacht with drive-up service. http://instagram.com/p/syO7j7sTnH/

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Addiction: Maoz Fries With Tahini Sauce

If you haven't eaten Maoz fries with their tahini sauce instead of ketchup, you are missing out. This was my wife's moment of genius yesterday. I also finally tried their barbecue pita for the first time. I really like it, but it was, indeed, sweet. Had I had the patience to load it with a lot of raw onion, it would have been even more fantastic.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Opportunity Knocking for Vegan Food Businesses in North Austin

For a long time, vegans had been portrayed as thin and sickly and somehow naively concerned about animals, but as veganism has become progressively more popular, the image of vegans has shifted to being predominantly people who are fashionably against the grain, probably with tattoos, numerous piercings, and a taste for indie music. I am not going to bother trying to find any statistical information about who vegans may be, but from my experience, some fit the stereotypes, but most are just like everyone else in society. Some are old, some are young, some are fat, some are fit, some are conservative, some are liberal, some are nerdy, some are not. There's nothing special about the way a typical vegan looks. He or she takes all forms.

This leads me to the point of this post. I have been long perplexed by the absence of vegan trailers or restaurants in North Austin, but it has occurred to me that North Austin does not fit in with what would be considered the stereotypical place for the stereotypical vegan. Central and South Austin fit that much more closely. These are the edgier, hip, and welcoming to the counter culture. And there's lot of indie music, too. So, it is no surprise that vegan establishments have found successful followings in these areas. North Austin is a different sort of community. It is has sprawling housing developments and tech companies, such as IBM, National Instruments, Samsung, and Apple. It is newer and growing fast. In the last couple of years, the Domain has blossomed, and that has the same kind of dense development seen normally in downtown. For now, North Austin remains one of the most affordable parts of Austin, and that is driving development. But can a vegan establishment thrive in such an area?

Obviously, there are numerous criteria that would go into whether a business will be successful. Some include visibility, walk-up and drive-up traffic, word of mouth, social media savvy, customer service, a solid product, consistency, etc. Sometimes, a business falls short because the owners have not thought and executed everything through to the extent needed. This can even happen to a vegan business, even in Central or South Austin. More vegan businesses seem to be popping up in Austin, and those that do are finding themselves in those central and south locations. I do not know whether any business will succeed wherever it ends up, but I can say that my gut feeling is that vegan entrepreneurs are not giving North Austin the consideration it deserves. They are also not giving themselves the best chance at being successful. Central and South Austin probably can take more vegan establishments and be successful with them, but the competition is getting tighter and tighter. But in North Austin, there is little competition.

From a sheerly mathematical point of view, North Austin is a wide-open opportunity for the enterprising vegan businessperson. North Austin has about 175,000 residents residing in the zip codes 78727, 78728, 78752, 78753, 78754, and 78758. If you go by the dated 2008 Vegetarian Times study showing 10 percent of adults are vegetarian-inclined, 3.2 percent are actual vegetarians, and 0.5 percent are vegan and if North Austin follows that basic pattern for all of its residents (presuming children eat what their parents do), 17,500 of its residents would be vegetarian-inclined. Of that number 5,600 would be actual vegetarians, and 875 would be vegans. Surely, I am overestimating the potential customer base in North Austin? After all, North Austin is not home to as many of those stereotypical alternative types, right? Actually, those numbers are probably quite conservative. From 2009 to 2011, the number of people in the United States identifying themselves as vegetarian doubled, according to a Vegetarian Resource Group survey. This 2011 study suggests 3 percent of the population is vegan and 2 percent vegetarian. It also shows between 30 and 40 percent of people are curious about vegetarian foods. I'm sure there are even more recent studies, and I would not be surprised if the numbers have continued to grow. The Vegetarian Resource Group also shows an equal divide between Republicans and Democrats. This last tidbit is most interesting to me. Political party is not indicative of a person's ethical choices. Could some vegans actually wear ties?

Just because the area has a sufficient population does not necessarily guarantee a business's potential success, but it is useful to have numbers on your side. Right now, if a vegan from North Austin, Leander, Cedar Park, Pflugerville, Round Rock, or Georgetown wants to go to a vegan restaurant or trailer, that person will have a considerable distance to travel. A vegan establishment in North Austin will draw people from all of these areas more regularly than they would otherwise be capable of to more southerly locations. Consider those major employers I mentioned earlier. I can even expand upon Apple, IBM, Samsung, and National Instruments as businesses that call this area home. There is also Dell, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality headquarters, the Austin Independent School District, Austin Community College, the University of Texas J. J. Pickle Research Campus, St. David's North Austin Medical Center, Seton Northwest Hospital, and many more. There are probably a significant number of vegans and vegetarians who work at these places and do not reside in North Austin but still desire a friendly place for lunch occasionally.

If I were to pick a spot in North Austin in which a vegan restaurant or trailer would stand its best chance at surviving, I would pick in or around the Domain. It is a fast-growing area, and its success has far exceeded expectations. For whatever reason, even Whole Foods, seemed reluctant to open up in the Domain after it had finished the outside of its building, but after a year, it finally did. The opening was one of the most successful sales days in Whole Foods history. Look at the Steeping Room in the Domain with its vegan-friendly menu. It has been a huge success there, probably because it has been able to take advantage of the void left by the lack of vegan or vegetarian (other than Indian) places in North Austin. The Domain is centrally located in this part of North Austin, and can take advantage of much of the business traffic I referred to. It is most certainly not a question of whether a vegan restaurant or trailer will eventually open in North Austin but when. The first that does so will have the greatest advantage and little competition. But for the sake of local vegan entrepreneurs, just hope the first vegan establishment in North Austin is not a chain that sees the void and opportunity there, such as Native Foods or Veggie Grill, because once they are here, they will be hard to displace.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Outmaneuvering a Four-Year-Old at the Dinner Table, at Least for Today

Steamed kale with poppy seed dressing, avocado, homemade tempeh bacon
Feeding my recently turned four-year-old is tricky business. He has all sorts of opinions about food and is more than happy to not eat anything. At his annual doctor's checkup, he came in at 40 percent for height and 50 percent for weight. I do not consider those numbers to be bad by any means. Different children grow at different rates, and while I'm a bit more heavy than I should be at the moment, I'm fairly average in height, not that it is indicative on what is normal for his growth. When Leo was an infant, I know our numbers matched up exactly at the time. Of course, there are two factors that affect his growth: being a vegan and that he was breastfed for the first two years of his life. He's a solid and energetic boy. He is by no means malnourished. But Anita sees the other children in his Pre-K class, and she is worried about how much bigger than him those children are. I don't see that, though. He looks to me to be right around the middle of the class in size. There is one really large boy in his class with a potbelly, so we can be thankful our son is not headed in the direction of being overweight at the moment. That brings me back to food. One day our son will love a certain ingredient, and the next decide he doesn't want it anymore. This morning for instance, he told me he hates raisins. He has always raved about his breakfast of oatmeal with brown sugar, ground flaxseed, raisins, and dried cranberries, and he has consistently eaten it for years. Now, he is picking out the raisins, so I guess I need to make a modification to the morning ritual. As I was racking my brain to decide what to make my children for dinner, it occurred to me that my son has consistently eaten steamed kale with poppy seed dressing, avocadoes, and homemade tempeh bacon. Bingo, a meal! It was, indeed, a success for both my son and 21-month-old daughter. And now my worries of what to feed them, my son especially, have been allayed for a day.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Revolt at Dinnertime: Bitter Rice and the Awful Mango Switcheroo

Today was just one of those days that my cooking was a colossal disaster. I saw this nice recipe for sweet and sour tempeh, and I was convinced the kids would love it, especially since it would be sweet and simple. I am not certain whether it was a terrible recipe or whether my substitution doomed it. It was probably the latter. Sweet and sour sauces typically take pineapple juice. We didn't have any pineapple, but I was still determined to make it. I found a can of organic mangos stored in mango juice. I was certain this would be a brilliant substitution, and it would be a new cooking sensation. My daughter and son go bananas over mangos, so it seemed like a safe bet. I prepared it with kale on the side. The plain rice tasted fine before I added the cooked onions and chopped mango, and as far as I could tell the sauce seemed OK, if not a perfect representation of a sweet and sour sauce. My 20-month-old daughter pretty much rejected everything, but she is a toddler. She threw the tempeh with her characteristic "Uh!" added for emphasis. My son screamed at me that his rice had onions in it. My wife squinched her face and mouth and suggested that she heat some leftovers. My wife and I braved our way through the intensely bitter rice. I'm not sure if it was from the sauce or the chopped mangos in the rice or both. The tempeh was fine, and so was the dinosaur kale. I tossed my son's meal and gave him the rest of the plain kale with poppy seed dressing (he loves this). It was just one of those days, but the meal did look nice. Of course, looks can be deceiving.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

BBQ Revolution: Vegan Brisket Lives Up to Its Reputation

I finally got some of the legendary seitan brisket from BBQ Revolution. Fifth time's a charm. I have to say that it is awesome and well worth the wait. The flavor of the sauce and the texture of the brisket are spot-on. I like the tiny touch of heat in the sauce. I also got the vegan mac for the first time, and it was great, especially with the brisket and potato salad. I was expecting my kids to devour the mac, but what they really went after was the baked beans. Now, the only thing I have not had on the menu is the garbanzo bean tempeh rips. I'm looking forward to that. If I could give a little constructive suggestion for BBQ Revolution, it would be to have a Texas po' boy barbecue sandwich. That was always my favorite at barbecue restaurants down in South Texas. They are a layer of brisket, pulled pork (soy curls), barbecue sausage links, and onion and pickle to top it off. Of course, they would need to add sausage links to your menu, but the fattiness of sausage would really pair well with the meatiness of the brisket.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Power of Unity Vegan's Lasagna

I do not know what Unity Vegan puts in its lasagna, but whatever mysterious substances it possesses impressed my picky eating team, my four year old and my 20 month old. They gobbled it up. Believe me, that's a huge compliment. I think it is amazing, too.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese No More: Getting Good Nutrition into Vegan Children with Nooch and Noodles

Vegan, Vegan Austin, Nooch and Noodles, Vegan Mac and Cheese
One thing that I like about vegan mac and (no) cheese is that when you make the sauce, you can incorporate extra nutrition. Very often, my children, one 20 months and the other 4 years old, reject whole chunks of vegetables, although I'm sure they are better than most. They will eat broccoli on most days, which I consider a major victory. Neither one will eat sweet potato chunks or eggplant or onions (if they are cut too big). They are iffy with carrots, sometimes yes, sometimes no. It is definitely a challenge getting good nutrition into their bodies. That brings me back to making a macaroni and (no) cheese sauce. For vegans, the traditional sauce is oily and heavy with nutritional yeast. Newer recipes feature cashews and a lot less oil. I like to boil potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots into the sauce with cashews, garlic, lots of nutritional yeast, some Earth Balance margarine, and salt. I do not use a recipe when I cook, but I got inspired by this recipe from VegNews years ago. I like to put broccoli with the cooked whole wheat noodles and sauce, but you can put other things into it, such as whole corn or even Brussels sprouts. So, on a nutritional level, this meal is a definite winner for my children, and I do not feel guilty about giving them this. As a vegan parent raising vegan children, I worry about sending my children mixed messages. Despite feeling uncomfortable about it, I have always called the meal I just described as macaroni and cheese. To someone not raised a vegan, I can totally understand why calling a vegan dish macaroni and cheese would be comforting, but a child raised vegan does not have the same type of nostalgia about a lifestyle he or she is unfamiliar with. Even though my four year old is down with being vegan as far as he can understand it, what happens when he goes to school or some social event, and they are serving what they call macaroni and cheese? Despite all of my precautions with his school (they do not serve meals there, thank goodness) and everything my wife and I have told him, he may get confused and eat what is offered him, not realizing it is not vegan. To resolve this problem, I have experimented with other names, but nothing has had that satisfying verbal quality to it as the simple macaroni and cheese or mac and cheese. Macaroni and cashew sauce? Please. Yesterday, as I was making this meal, an even better name occurred to me: nooch and noodles. It has nice alliteration. I think this could work. Now, we just need to learn this name as a family, and I hope we can avoid such name confusion with other meals in the future.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dairy, Acid Reflux, and Great Speakers Coming to Austin (Yes, They Are Related)

These upcoming Engine2 Diet talks here in Austin look amazing, if you have the time and, oh, $550 laying around. One of the speakers is Mark Bittman of The New York Times. His columns, which are sometimes vegan friendly, can be infuriating, but there are a couple columns that I highly recommend. They deal with the connection between dairy and acid reflux and Bittman's long struggle with the problem. In lieu of the medication he was taking, he cut out dairy, and his acid reflux went away. This blew my mind because I had reached my own conclusion about dairy years ago. I used to get acid reflux, too, even after I went vegetarian. I remember this gourmet pizza place in Salado that would make the acid reflux flair up big time. I would kneel over in pain. Of course, like everyone else, I loved my cheese and didn't want to give it up. When I went vegan, the acid reflux went away entirely. I haven't had any issues in a decade. That is one reason why I do not get overly excited about the new vegan cheeses on the market. Here are the two Bittman columns:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Vegan Taco Update: Taco 'Bout It Closes; Vegan Nom Relocating

Taco 'Bout It has closed. This is a message on the business's Facebook page today: "A time sensitive opportunity presented itself recently and a hard decision to retire Taco 'Bout It has been made. Thank you for having faith in my business, your constant encouragement, and above all your friendship. Peace!" That means Austin is down to one vegan taco stand, Vegan Nom, which is also in a state of flux. They are in the process of moving from the Buzz Mill back to their old location on North Loop. This change was sudden this weekend, so I imagine some kind of fallout occurred with the Buzz Mill. While I love having Vegan Nom closer, I am saddened for the people in South Austin who got used to their presence. There is no word about the second trailer they have been planning on opening for months now, but I wouldn't doubt they will have South Austin in mind when they do.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Vegan Burger Bests the Rest

I have just tried the new hand-formed Field Roast burgers. They are ridiculously good, by far the best store-bought, plant-based burger I have ever had. You have to try these. I got mine at the Whole Foods in the Domain.  What makes them so good is the fatty quality to them. They are not Goodseed Burgers, which are awesome, but are super healthy, too. The Field Roast burger has 24 grams of total fat per burger or 37 percent RDA versus 10 grams and 15 percent RDA for the Goodseed Burger. Yup, it's the fat that makes it so good. That and the amazing flavor of all Field Roast products.

Want Vegan Honey? Mesquite Beans Have the Answer

I just made a wild personal discovery. Mesquite bean jelly tastes like a mild honey. I've bought Bee Free Honee, and while good, it tastes nothing like honey. It is made out of apples. I have no idea where I got this mesquite bean jelly (I've had it for a while), but it is awesome and a Texas product. Plants win again.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

You Don't Need a Birthday Party to Order Vegan Cupcakes, But It Helps

Vegan, Celeste's Best, Cupcakes, Austin

One of the best things about hosting a child's birthday party: an excuse to order gourmet vegan cupcakes from Celeste's Best. We got three kinds: chocolate with chocolate frosting, orange with vanilla frosting, and raspberry swirl with lemon frosting. They were amazing and oh so delicious.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Not Holding Back with This Vegan Birthday Cake

Vegan, Cake, Austin

OK, this cake I baked for my son's fourth birthday may not look so great. I guess I didn't blend the powdered sugar in well enough and probably did not add enough of it to make it as thick as it should have been for the outer chocolate icing. That said, however, I think I'm breaking some decadence laws with this one. I used the devil's food cupcake recipe from Betty's Gone Vegan, Isa's coconut icing recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance as the middle filling, and a slightly modified chocolate icing recipe from Joy of Vegan Baking (I added coconut milk to tie in the flavors). I did not hold back on sugar or fat, but I used mostly whole wheat pastry flour with about a 1/3 cup of oatmeal flour. I also used a little apple sauce and apple cider vinegar, in addition to a liberal amount of baking soda. It did come out fluffy but also really rich. That is OK. It is not normally how we would prepare something, but since this was a birthday celebration, I thought I'd have a little fun. He definitely burned off any calories he consumed on his new bike. Total amount of Earth Balance used: 1 1/2 cups.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Real Men Eat Plants, but Reporter Sticks to the Meat

There was a great story on NPR this afternoon about vegans and masculinity. There was just one small detail that rubbed me wrong. When is it OK for a news reporter to make announcements about him or herself while reporting on a topic? In this case, maybe to prove her credibility, Neda Ulaby needed to clarify that she eats meat. If she were reporting on serial killers, would she state she abstained from murdering people? If she reported on the World Cup, would she make a point that she prefers American football? This is not only inappropriate, but it is irrelevant, as well.

Taking the Plant Out of the Plant-Based Diet

I can't tell you how concerned this Washington Post story makes me. First it was Gardein and Beyond Meat engineering plant proteins (by a process of heating and cooling) to resemble animal proteins, then we hear of a project to do this with cheese, and now ta-da, we will have engineered plant-based cow's milk (Muufri, sounds like Moo-free). Yes, this saves animals; that is great. But I am deeply concerned that all of this bioengineering will take away the benefits of a plant-based diet. If you eat these products made out of plants that have been refashioned into analogs of the animal versions, I am willing to bet that you will take away any and all health effects. Will the plant version of casein (milk protein) have the same effect on growing cancer as the real version of casein? I don't know, but if it molecularly resembles the original, there is a strong chance it will have the same results in the body. A plant-based diet once offered hope, but that is starting to change. If a food is bioengineered to be like something else, the question stands whether it will have the same effect in the human body. I am speculating that, yes, it will. To me, these advances are similar to the more rudimentary form of bioengineering in which vegetable oil is hydrogenated. This process was supposed to make a healthier version of butter, but the reality is that it didn't. It created transfats, which are not exactly the same as saturated fats, but they have the same effect in the human body. All of the vegans who buy into these vegan analogs of the real deal will become human experiments, and we will find out after years and years of nutritional studies what happens in the human body as a result of this. What we are doing amounts to taking the plant out of the plant-based diet. Part of what concerns me if you look at the ingredients of a product like Gardein, they look great, but the label does not tell you the science behind how it is made. This takes processing foods to the next, heart-clogging, cancer-growing level. My hope is that scientists researching the health effects of a plant-based diet will quickly start studying this issue. In the future, we may have to differentiate between different kinds of plant-based diets.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Our Food Choices Matter

What we eat does mater, not just to the animals who are threatened by what we consume but also to the people who pick the food for us. Here is a nice Tedx talk about this by the founder of Austin's Action for Animals, Lauren Ornelas. She started Action for Animals in 1992 when she was a student at St. Edward's University. I wish there were more people like Lauren out there.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: Pulse Vegan

I finally got a chance to try out Pulse Vegan. It is really exciting to have a new vegan trailer in Austin. I really dig sandwiches, so this is up my alley. I got to try the Frenchy, the Philly, the Mac, the Savory Greens, the Dill Fries, and (not pictured) the Barbecue Black-Eye Peas. I did not try the Buff Boy barbecue sandwich this time. I was a bit surprised at my reactions to the dishes. I was super excited about the Frenchy beforehand, but while it is OK, I did not think it was great. There was a strange flavoring in the dipping sauce. Maybe allspice? The sandwich by itself was good, but it did not scream bold flavors. It had seitan, onions, and vegan cream cheese inside a baguette. I think that it needs something a little more flavorful added to it. The Philly, which I did not expect to care for, really surprised me in a pleasant way. It had seitan, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, vegan cheese, mustard, and Cajun mayo inside the sandwich. It was quite tasty and full of flavor. The Dill Fries and Savory Greens were both quite delicious. The Mac, which my children surprisingly rejected, tasted a bit like cornbread stuffing. I would not get that again. The Barbecue Black-Eye Peas were a bit too strongly flavored of smoke for my taste, but my wife and daughter really dug the taste. I can't wait to go back and try the Buff Boy and see what other things they create. Welcome to Austin.

Austin, Vegan, Pulse Vegan

Austin, Vegan, Pulse Vegan, Philly

Austin, Vegan, Pulse Vegan, Mac and Cheese, Dill Fries, Savory Greens

Austin, Vegan, Pulse Vegan, Frenchy

Sunday, July 13, 2014

World Cup Soccer Ball

Here is a little known World Cup fact for those of you who took the time to watch some of the games this year: The ball, designed by Adidas, is made of polyurethane rather than leather. I can't say whether it is vegan, but at least it is more animal friendly than balls of many other professional sports. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/worldcup2014/article-2641897/The-science-Brazuca-World-Cup-2014-ball-set-surpass-Jabilani.html

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Finally, A Vegan Egg-Style Sandwich to Get Excited About

Years ago, when I was a reporter at the Times Record News (Wichita Falls), coworkers and I would go to the nearby Bar L for drinks and food after a hard day's work. Some coworkers would get that disgusting Red Draw drink invented at the Bar L. It's basically tomato juice and beer. I don't remember what I drank, but I do remember getting egg sandwiches all of the time. They were toasted bread with mayo, scrambled eggs, and tomatoes. It is one of those meals I had before I became a vegan that I have always had fond memories of. Maybe it was the great sandwich or the great company? I don't know. For years, I tried to make a vegan version of that with no success. I always made it with scrambled tofu, and the flavor would not be right, and the sandwich would be impossibly messy. I had pretty much given up on the idea of having that sandwich again, but the other day when I made a plain tofu omelet, it struck me that this was the perfect filling for my "egg" sandwich. The taste was perfect, and it held together really well. Here is a picture of the result, also with fresh garden tomatoes. I have to say that it was a great success! I will be making this again. I imagine it would be perfect with a beer and a friend and stimulating conversation. Here is the link to the recipe I used for the plain omelet without any filling: http://mouthwateringvegan.com/2012/06/17/vegan-cheese-omelette/

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Is It OK for Alicia Silverstone to be an Occasional Vegan?

So, one Facebook, someone posted this story from US Weekly about Alicia Silverstone occasionally slipping up on her "vegan" diet. The question posed was whether it is OK for her not to get eat vegan. I would be the last person to chastise someone for not staying true to a vegan diet, but Alicia Silverstone is not just someone. I agree generally about people trying their best and that no one is perfect. However, Silverstone has projected a certain image and has tried to make money off of that image. Look at her books, Kind Diet and Kind Mama. She is the vegan expert and wants to instruct the masses. In that sense, she is a role model, just as Isa Chandra Moskowitz is. What would we all think if Isa starting eating steak? It was good while it lasted? I suppose when people are supposed to be the experts, they have a higher standard. Would Jillian Michaels lose her status as a weight loss expert if she ended up overweight? If Alicia Silverstone wants her own private journey, then it should be just that. She shouldn't be trying to make money off of it. She is not simply just a case of a celebrity turning or never really having had her heart in it. To her, it's a business. I don't make any money off of being a vegan. My journey is my journey. I would think you would have different expectations of me if I had my own vegan empire. It does not surprise me that a celebrity would slip up, and it wouldn't bother me if that celebrity did not have a vegan business. That said, I do not think we should be using celebrities as role models. People are really let down when these celebrities get bored with their cause and move on to something else. Gwyneth Paltrow comes to mind with her losing all vegan virtues to eat across Spain with Mario Batali. Or how about Natalie Portman when she got pregnant? They send the wrong messages to people.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Vegan Breakfast, the English Way

I made an English-style breakfast with an apple-sage sausage from Field Roast, baked beans (Texas style), maple mushrooms, roasted tomato, and a plain tofu omelet (Its secret ingredient was tahini.). Of course, I'm missing white oatmeal pudding, which can be made vegan, and some tempeh bacon. Maybe next time. Of course, this was quite a feast. Everything was quite delicious. This was the first time I had the sausage from Field Roast. I loved it. Here is the link to the recipe for the omelet, which I made without any filling, but it was still yummy: http://mouthwateringvegan.com/2012/06/17/vegan-cheese-omelette/.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mango Tasting!

If anyone is looking for something fun to do and for an excuse to go to South Padre Island soon, Rivers End Nursery in Bayview is having its annual mango tasting festival on July 19. They grow a huge variety of mangos. You would not believe how different they can be from each other. My favorite is a variety called Carrie. You can read about the festival on the nursery's main page, if you scroll down. Make sure you pick up a bunch of fresh ruby guavas while you are there. If you need advice on eating vegan in the Rio Grande Valley, just let me know, and I can help. Here is the website: http://riversendnursery.com/.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Arlo's Is Back!

After six months of being shut down, Arlo's has new owners and is back in business next to Cheer Up Charlie's on Red River. They have the most amazing vegan barbecue burgers. They are insane. Most people rave about their vegan bacon, cheese burger. I don't care for cheese, vegan or not, so this is not really for me. Their street tacos are also really nice.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Eating Vegan in North Italy, Part III

Before going to Italy, I got a frantic email from the conference organizers that the hotel where the conference would be held in Gargnano, Italy, would likely have trouble accommodating a vegan. They told me to come prepared with goodies from home. I didn't do that. I know I can eat vegan anywhere, even if it may not be the most exciting of options. That said, however, the hotel did know how to make vegan food. Here are some examples of dishes they prepared just for me. They were lovely. I also loved having fizzy (frizzanti) water available for each meal. And of course, they plied us with lots of coffee and even an occasional glass of wine or even limoncello.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Eating Vegan in North Italy, Part II

In case anyone cares, I got a chance to go out to eat on my own today for lunch in beautiful Gargnano on the shores of Lago di Garda. I went to a restaurant called Al Miralago and got the Spaghetti Aglio, Olio, and Peperocino. It was intensely garlicky and was fantastic. Afterwards, I got a fresh peach and some dried figs and dried, sugared kumquats from an awesome little grocery.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Eating Vegan in North Italy, Part I

So far, I have not had much free time to explore much on my own. The conference has been providing food, and they have made a point, which is awesome, to prepare me something specifically vegan (I'm the vegano, according to the waitress). The best dish they have given me was a mushroom risotto, but unlike any risotto I have ever seen, it was made with long-grain rice. Last night, I got a fairly bland spanakopita because it was basically the same as everyone else's, expect that it was made without the cheese. I was also given a big bowl of plain beans, fava I think, and those were quite tasty. I have been getting salads at lunch and dinner, too. Most of those have had in-season tomatoes, which are fantastic, and olive oil as the only dressing, which is a little weird. The one I had the day before yesterday was really good because the dressing included balsamic vinegar, and it had this tasty corn. Breakfast has been really simple, bread and jam, but I prefer a light meal first in the morning. For dessert at lunch yesterday, they gave a big bowl of fresh fruit. The peaches were awesome, even better than the peaches we have been getting at this point in the year from Fredericksburg, but hopefully, those will get better soon. The first night in Gargnano, I had a mushroom pizza, senza mozzarella, and it was really good, too, but the crust was a little too thin, in my opinion, so it did not exceed the pizza I got in the JFK airport. The only dish I really had on my own was in the travel from the Milano-Malpensa International Airport to here. Outside of the main train station in Milan, I had a superb falafel sandwich, one of the best I have had. What really separated it was the bread, which is the same as the bread used in donar kebabs in Berlin. It is something like a cross between focaccia and ciabatta. Everything inside it was really fresh, and they were not afraid to put chili in it. The fries were so good. I just don't understand why fries are not made like this more, at least in the United States. I'm attaching a picture of that meal here and of the typical breakfast I would have.

Vegan, Milan, Falafel Sandwich, Fries, Italy

Vegan, Italy, Gargnano, Breakfast

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Vegan Lifeline in the JFK Airport

Hungry, tired, I just got into the JFK airport in NYC from Austin. I walked around a bit, feeling the vegan blues with all of the meat-heavy places I passed. I finally lost my patience and went for a cheeseless pizza (the California) from PizzaVino. I am not kidding when I say this was the best pizza I have ever had. What the heck? An airport?

Monday, June 16, 2014

I am really addicted to whole roasted fresh garden tomatoes. They really are insanely good. Here's one in a whole wheat tortilla with roasted chilis, onions, potatoes, barbecue tempeh, and freshly made salsa. The only thing that would have made this better is some avocado, but there really was no room to spare.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I created a new hotdog for lunch today: Field Roast Frankfurter with chipotle mayonnaise and a pico de gallo (sans pico) with onions, tomatoes from the garden, lemon juice, and garlic. I always cut the frankfurters in half because they take up too much space. It was amazing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

With all due apologies (and gratitude) to Vegan Nom, I just made one of the best tacos I have ever made: whole roasted tomatoes, whole roasted chilies, barbecue tempeh, and avocado. Wow. I was too ravenous to take a picture, but believe me, it was good, and we got through a lot of the tomatoes and chilies from our garden.

Friday, March 28, 2014

My eyes, my eyes. His eyes, his eyes.

Vegans and non-vegans love to fight about whether or not our bodies are designed to eat meat...talking about our (pathetic) canines as evidence that we humans are a hunting tribe, etc, discussion about how long or short our digestive tract is (apparently it is short for those that favor meat-eating and long for vegans and vegan-sympathizers).  It is one of those discussions that fully convinces you that you are rights - whichever side you are on...so just to add to all that...

But what about our eyes? How we see?  We see vibrant colors and precise detail.   We love the look of bright colors on our plate so much we invest more than a billion dollars  a year in food colorings to make our food LOOK LIKE FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES!  And what an interesting industry...just spend a few minutes on this website...http://www.sensientfoodcolors.com/.  We also have the ability to see tiny details in leaves, just needed to identify one species of plant from another to know which ones to harvest.   

Cats, on the other hand see dull colors, but are able to see movement much more distinctly...precisely the needs of a hunter...

Look at any advertisement for beef or chicken.  Somewhere on that plate is a plant product, glorious in its lovely color - a tiny salad, a few cheery, cherry tomatoes, a sprig of parsley, a trio of asparagus, pink peppercorns.  All, sitting along side making the meat look palatable, like a lovely young trophy wife can do for an aging millionaire.   All those advertising dollars and touched-up photos simply to make meat look less meat-like.   Just another way to see the world!

If You Can Only Get One Vegan Thing in Austin ...

Austin, Vegan, Vegan Nom, Tacos, Three Amigos Loco
This is the Three Amigos Loco from Vegan Nom. Notice, it has a corn tortilla in this picture. It is better with the flour tortilla, as the filling does not have to compete in flavor with tortilla.

Vegan Nom is the absolutely the vegan prize in Austin. I've tried just about everything they have made, but I have missed out on a few of their specials. My two all-time favorite tacos are the Local Tex-Mex (with no cheese but avocado added) and the off-menu item (once a special) of Three Amigos made Loco (but no cheese). I'm absolutely bonkers about their chipotle salsa. I've petitioned them to turn it into a soup without much luck so far. Every time I order, they ask, "Is this, Andrew." Yes, you've got me. My son once played a game repeatedly for a while, pretending to make phone calls to Vegan Nom, asking for two tacos with no cheese but with avocado. It was hilarious. Unfortunately, I live in North Austin, and since Vegan Nom moved to the Buzz Mill and next to an actual smoking BBQ meat pit (really unpleasant) south of Town Lake, I have not been able to go as often. They have a second trailer and say they will reopen on North Loop, but time will tell where they end up. I would not mind if they end up farther north than the centrally located North Loop. But if I could only get one vegan meal in Austin, I would get my favorite tacos from Vegan Nom.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Zoo Makes Headlines By Killing Lions

It is certainly interesting the outrage that the public expressed when a Danish zoo recently killed a giraffe and fed it to the lions. Now, the same zoo is back at it, this time killing four lions, including cubs. These actions, in the minds of the zookeepers, are perfectly justifiable for supposed conservation purposes. Perhaps, there is even some logic in killing these animals in terms of zoo management. The reality is that the animals who are not killed are living a life of constant suffering in their prisons designed for our viewing pleasure. This is all done under the guise of conservation. The animals in the wild can't survive, so we need to imprison them, and occasionally kill them, in order to preserve them. Do you see the irony there? In Austin, we have a zoo that consists of only rescued animals, so I suppose what they are doing is of a higher noble purpose. However, these animals, while they may receive better treatment, are still enslaved for our viewing pleasure. And the cost that people pay to go to the zoo pays for the upkeep of the animals, so it becomes a necessary evil. Somehow, we think of animal imprisonment as different than human imprisonment. It isn't. These animals do not live happy lives. They want more than the limited movement they can manage in their small cages. Lions probably have no interest in being in frigid Denmark, even if they were free of cages there. If we truly cared about animal conservation, we would ban zoos and the keeping of animals and focus our efforts on conserving their habitats. Maybe our animal experts could be helpful to the wild lions of Africa in Africa? Here is a short excerpt from The New York Times story on the lions being killed:

Denmark, the land of enchanting fairy tales and liberal social values, is becoming known as the land of dead zoo animals.
The Copenhagen Zoo, which generated global outrage last month when it killed a healthy 18-month-old giraffe named Marius, said it had to euthanize four lions this week to clear the path for a newly arrived young male lion. The zoo’s decision created abacklash on social media on Wednesday, with some calling the zoo’s staff members “serial killers” and “murderers.”
The zoo justified the killings of the two parents, ages 14 and 16, and their cubs on the grounds of genetic purity and conservation, noting that the new lion would invariably prey on the cubs, while there was a risk that the older male lion would try to breed with one of the female lions that were his offspring.
“If the zoo had not made the change in the pride now, then we would have risked that the old male would mate with these two females — his own offspring — and thereby give rise to inbreeding,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
For more, click here.

If you have children, consider purchasing Anthony Browne's children's book, Zoo. It perfectly captures the horror of zoos and relates it to children. Browne has amazing insight. Here is a link to the Amazon page for the book.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


A couple of weekends ago, the in-laws were in town and we went to a lovely Italian restaurant in Austin called Maggianos http://www.maggianos.com/en/Pages/Home.aspx in South Austin.  I spent a few months in Italy when I was in college so I have a warm place in my heart for REAL Italian food (not cheese soaked pasta dishes you get here) so I was excited to be be there.  Awesome place.  But not at all vegan-friendly.  As a good vegan does, we bombarded the cashier with vegan questions and began to order...the cashier, a 20-something-plays-videogames-and-drinks-chocolate-milk-and-wears-the-same-shirt-for-days-on-end kinda guy says challengingly, "the Pizza's NOT vegan."  Incredulous, I say, "Really? It has milk?"  "No", he replies, "It has YEAST!"  I shake my head and say "It's OK" and he just stands there, not entering my order into the register and looks at me (ready for a fight)..."It is a living ORGANISM".  I just have to laugh, and retort "I am not here to argue, I am just trying to feed my family".

I really don't mind being challenged like that...but it is funny that a person who clearly is not vegan and in fact clearly was anti-vegan would seemingly worry about the well-being of single celled organisms.  If we had to worry about critters as small as yeast, gosh, I couldn't sip water from a glass that wasn't recently sterilized for fear I might ingest a bacterium!

Good food though...what was vegan!  LOVED and I mean LOVED and will FANTASIZE about the marinated olives, zucchini and eggplant in the refrigerated section...drooooollll....we had some decent pizza that the kiddos loved and the husband loved his pasta dish.  All in all a very nice visit!

Veganism, Parenting, and Health

When I first became a vegan twelve years ago, I noticed how I immediately started feeling better. I had more energy, and little nagging issues went away. For instance, I used to get acid reflux in a bad way. When we lived in Salado, we lived right across the street from a gourmet pizza place, which I loved, but the acid reflux was absolutely the worst when we went there. They used a variety of cheeses on the pizza, and it was quite a tasty pizza. Except sometime in the middle of eating it, I would bend over clutching my chest. Ouch. Eventually, I made the connection between the pizza and my acid reflux, but it did not go away entirely. I wound get it every once in a while. After I became a vegan, it occurred to me that I got acid reflux when I had cheese-heavy dishes. Since I have been a vegan, I have not had one case of acid reflux. Another minor issue that I had was a wart growth on one of my fingers. I would cut it away, and it would aways come back. When I became a vegan, it just went away entirely. A big plus to being a vegan was I just stopped getting colds. I was never sick until about 2012 when we started sending our son to daycare. Since then, I have gotten many colds, and I'm sure I've had the flu. Today, we kept our son out of school because he was coughing uncontrollably. After a visit to the doctor, he's feeling better this evening, but I'm feeling a cold come on for me now. The bottom line is that veganism will do wonders for your health, but it won't protect you from children.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

So Animals Have Emotion? Surprised?

I saw this interesting article about a giraffe showing emotion in a zoo. The story is touching in its own way, but that an animal shows emotion and attachments shouldn't be a surprise. It should be proof to people to stop locking animals up. http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/2014/mar/22/giraffe-licks-dying-zoo-worker/

Friday, March 21, 2014

Should You Vaccinate?

This is not necessarily a vegan issue, but I thought I would share this since so many vegan parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. I had an interesting conversation about vaccines with my daughter's doctor today. If you haven't heard, a young child recently died of whooping cough in Austin. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people choose not to protect their children from very dangerous diseases. I can understand a debate about whether the ingredients in the vaccines are safe, but that has not been the focus. It seems that you are either for or against vaccines. The doctor did mention that manufacturers are removing some of the questionable ingredients from vaccines, such as thiomersal, so that is a positive. Just a coincidence, but on the way home, I ran across this article about vaccines in the Texas Observer: http://www.texasobserver.org/worth-shot/. I highly recommend it. And on top of that, my wife sent me this article about how children who are not vaccinated are threatening the lives of vulnerable children: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Anti+vaccination+parents+risking+toddler+life+mother+says/9642041/story.html. Please consider all of the information closely before choosing not to vaccinate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vegan at IKEA

I needed to go to IKEA in Round Rock for a small bookshelf, and I noticed that the cafe there had tomato-vegetable soup labeled vegan. It was pretty good, too. About a year ago, we went and had to wait forever before the kitchen staff determined that their lentil soup was vegan. That soup was awesome by the way, but it is nice to see them labeling it now.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oil-Free Crispy Potatoes

I just wanted to share a recipe that worked out beautifully for me. We are trying to use only whole foods in the house, and that includes eliminating oil. Of course, that has made cooking tofu and potatoes much more difficult. This recipe for crispy potatoes works like a charm. There is no oil, just whole wheat flour. I also added cumin, salt, and pepper to the flour mixture. There really is no reason to be cooking potatoes in oil. Very weird, but I am super pleased this works. Here is the recipe: http://www.fifteenspatulas.com/fat-free-crispy-potatoes/. Oh, and I left the potato skins on.

Friday, January 17, 2014

New Whole Foods in North Austin!

The new Whole Foods in the Domain is simply awesome, but I am still hyperventilating from all of those people. The parking garage and lot were full. Streets in the Domain and a very large dirt field were filled with overflow parking. Insane. I can't wait until it calms down.