Help Green Seed Vegan Expand

Jerk Tempeh Sandwich from Green Seed Vegan. Photo by mollyjade

Green Seed Vegan, maker of delicious and healthy sandwiches and snacks out of a truck in Houston, is aiming to move into a brick-and-mortar location. A permanent location will allow them to expand their hours and menu. And judging by the food I’ve tried so far, I really want to have even more delicious options.

Vegan options have been expanding so fast in Texas, largely because of community support. It can be hard for young business owners to get loans in traditional ways. So if you want even more vegan food options in Houston, consider pledging a few dollars to Green Seed’s Kickstarter.

Animal Issues in Texas

By now you’ve surely heard about the pig slaughterhouse in Dallas that was dumping pig blood into a creek in a residential neighborhood via an underground pipe. This very serious violation was discovered by an amateur drone pilot. Really.

Apparently the blood is noticeable from Google Map images of the area. It’s amazing to think such a flagrant violation went on for so long unnoticed.  If the meatpacking plant cares so little for environmental regulations, you can imagine how they must treat the animals and their employees. The plant immediately responded by closing down.

***

Last night, 60 Minutes did a segment on exotic animal “ranches” in Texas where animals from Africa are kept and selectively hunted for a huge amount of money. Priscilla Ferral from Friends of Animals gives the animal rights perspective in the link below:

Priscilla Ferral on 60 Minutes

Rabbit Food Grocery Virtually Opens. Literally.

Rabbit Food Grocery

Rabbit Food Grocery, Austin’s first and only all-vegan grocery store, opened virtual doors this week. Their ultimate goal is to have a brick-and-mortar store in Austin where you can buy everything your little vegan heart desires, from white chocolate chips to veganically-grown produce, without ever having to read a label. But finding a location, painting, and setting up all the doodads it takes to run a grocery store takes time. A lot of it. My friends* at RFG were anxious to start spreading some vegan love around Texas (and elsewhere), so they’ve opened up shop online for now.

So here’s why you should be excited (even those of you outside Austin). Rabbit Food Grocery knows what we want. All those little hard to get vegan goodies that you’ve been craving. And that’s what they’re focusing on for now.

To start with, vegan gum. As far as I know, Vegan Freak in Denton is the only other place in all of Texas that carries vegan gum. And I’m not driving that far! Soy curls (see my love letter from last week). Vegan pet food.

Vegan cheese. They’re the only place in Austin carrying Teese, that I know of. And they have Sheese. Sheese, y’all! Cheese that I’ll happily eat on a cracker or crumbled on a salad. Unmelted (which is good since it doesn’t really melt.) So far I’ve only had the blue cheese, which is fabulous and not moldy. If anyone had the blue cheese salad dressing at Counter Culture’s wine and cheez night, I’m pretty sure Sheese is what Sue used to make that.

RFG also carries baking mixes, Mimic Cream coffee creamer ( haven’t seen this anywhere else in Austin yet, though I haven’t looked really hard), Speculoos spread, Hazelnut Chocolate Spread (in the style of Nutella), and lots of other things you probably didn’t realize you were missing. And they’ll be adding more items to their inventory.

For now, RFG will be delivering locally to drop off locations at vegetarian restaurants in Austin, free of charge. Check their calendar for locations and times. Otherwise, you can have things shipped. At the moment, they’re not shipping refrigerated or frozen items. But, one day they will, and this is where you should get excited if you live elsewhere in Texas. Because you’re close to Austin, packages will ship quickly, which means you won’t have to pay super expensive overnight shipping charges to buy refrigerated items. (Note, this is speculation based on my ordering from other vegan places. I don’t know how they plan to handle cold shipping yet.)

*Obligatory statement: The owners are friends of mine and great people. They didn’t ask me to write this or compensate me in any way.

The Magic of Soy Curls

Carolina soy curls with salad and potatoes. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Have you heard of soy curls? Wheatsville Coop just started carrying them (I’m taking all the credit for this since I requested them. So what if 20 other people did, too?) If you haven’t used soy curls before and you live within driving distance of Wheatsville Coop in Austin or Ann’s Health Food and Market in Dallas or Waxahachie, buy some ASAP. Otherwise, they can be bought from the Butler Soy Curl website. If you go in with a group of friends so you can split the shipping, they can be very cheap.

So what are soy curls? They’re similar to textured vegetable protein (TVP), except they’re better in every way. To start with, TVP is made from defatted soy flour. When oil is extracted from soy beans, what’s left is a flour made up of the protein and carbohydrate of the soybeans. This is just formed into TVP shape. Soy curls are made from whole soy beans, so you’re getting a less processed product.

Also, TVP has a beany taste. Often this can be covered up with strong flavors (or maybe some people like that taste?). I think soyrizo made from TVP is pretty delicious, but any recipe less flavorful tastes off to me. Soy curls, on the other hand, don’t have any beany taste. That means they can handle more delicate flavors.

And finally, TVP chunks look like dog food. Don’t tell me you have noticed! Soy curls look like food meant for humans.

But really the best part about them (and this is mostly true for TVP, too) is how versatile and easy to use they are. Just rehydrate with vegetable broth or something similar, and you can use them in just about any type of cuisine.

I realize this all sounds like an infomercial, but well, I love soy curls like Vince loves his nuts. So, if you pick up your phones now, you’ll also receive these free ideas about how to use your shiny new soy curls.

Barbecue soy curl sandwich. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

  • Add a few handfuls of soy curls to a saucepan. I usually go for one or two handfuls per person. Cover 1/2 way with your favorite barbecue sauce and the rest of the way with water. Simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed. Then serve with cole slaw on a sandwich. The whole meal can easily be made in half an hour.
  • Rehydrate soy curls in your favorite broth for about five minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can (you can reuse the broth in soup). Saute in oil with fajita seasonings, then serve with tortillas and all the fixings.
  • Rehydrate soy curls in your favorite broth for about five minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Chop, and then use in your favorite chicken salad recipe.
  • You’ll notice that soy curls might crumble in the package a bit, but don’t fret about it. Toss any leftover bits at the bottom on the package into a pot of soup with carrots, celery, and noodles and you’ll have super easy chick’n noodle soup.
  • Check out Vegan Diner and Vegan Brunch for recipes that use soy curls. The smokey soy curls in Vegan Diner are vaguely reminiscent of barbecue or bacon and totally delicious. And the Courico Tacos in Vegan Brunch are indescribable.

Winners Announced in the 2011 Vegan Best of Austin!

 

Vegans Rock Austin has announced the winners (and runners-up) of the 2011 Vegan Best of Austin. And, y’all picked right. Mostly. Oh you didn’t realize you could pick wrong? Silly, you.

You got the best veggie burger right. I’ve long thought that the Veggie Royale at Bouldin Creek has been overlooked by other Best of Polls in Austin, and now that’s rectified. And I pretty much agree with all the other winners, too. Though I’m looking askance at that salsa category.

What do you think of the results? Did your favorite make it? Was anyone criminally left off the list?

My thanks to VRA for starting a great tradition. Great vegetarian cuisine often gets sidelined in mainstream polls, and now these restaurants will get the recognition they deserve. Now I’m off to put trying the beet fries at East Side Kings at the top of my to do list.

Moses Falafel

2012 is starting out with as much momentum as 2011. No sooner do I brag about the ten new veg restaurants in Texas in 2011, than I read about the opening of a new vegan* and kosher falafel cart opening at the Dell Jewish center. Moses Falafel will serve Israeli-style falafel, which is a bit different from the Lebanese, Persian, and Greek styles commonly available in Austin. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll have the tiny Israeli pickled cucumbers I know and love. [Aside: these are the pickles I'm talking about. A friend occasionally sends me some, which I then hoard.] The cart’s Facebook page also announces that their falafel balls are now gluten-free. They also serve baklavah, which is dairy-free, but unfortunately not honey-free. Which also means the restaurant isn’t technically vegan. But whatever, new veg food cart!

2011 Year in Vegan

2011 has been huge for vegans and animals in Texas. Lots of growth and innovation, and some tragedy, too.

Green Seed Vegan in Houston. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

New vegan and vegetarian eateries seemed to open weekly. Houston may have began the trend with the opening of Green Seed Vegan, a cart serving wraps and smoothies. Radical Eats also started serving Houston some Tex-Mex and a brunch buffet after years of selling at farmers’s markets. In San Antonio, Vegeria opened and impressed everyone with their tamales and daily specials. Green Vegetarian also opened a second location in San Antonio. In Dallas, Jackalope Vegan food cart opened briefly, before self imploding, and in Fort Worth, Good Karma Kitchen opened after a long planning period that seems to have paid off. *Update*  A reader on Facebook noticed that I left off VSpot Cafe in Dallas. The restaurant was opened by the owner of Bliss Raw Cafe and has no relation to the restaurant in Brooklyn.

Sweet Ritual banner. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

In Austin, Arlos’s started serving amazing burgers late at night, Kat’s is dishing up creative ice creams, and Sweet Ritual began to serve incredible sundaes and coffee beverages. Conscious Cravings has enjoyed great success, resulting in a second location in South Austin. And while not 100% vegan, Austin’s vegan community has greeted Wasota Africa Cuisine, the reincarnated World Beat Cafe, with great excitement.

The new vegan restaurant that got the most media attention was definitely the UNT vegan dining hall, Mean Greens. The first all-vegan college dining hall made a huge buzz and elicited countless news articles with tired jokes about vegans in Texas, but on campus it was received with pleasure and a bit of complacency. Veganism, vegetarianism, and healthy lifestyles are popular enough among college students that it didn’t seem remarkable to many students.

Animal Rights and Rescue from their Facebook page

New community groups also popped up in 2011. Animal Rights and Rescue of North Austin and DFW Vegan Families both began, and a new vegan social group for San Antonio similar to Vegan Rocks Austin is in the works and should officially launch soon (check out their Facebook page for now).

The powerhouse partnership between Engine 2 Diet and Whole Foods has resulted in increased vegan options at Whole Foods. While some folks miss some of the greasier options that used to show up, I’m pretty happy to see lots of roasted vegetables, grains, and beans. An Engine 2 partnership has also transformed the town of Marshall Texas. An immersion, similar to the ones hosted by Whole Foods, called Get Healthy Marshall, made so many folks in Marshall reconsider their diets that new, healthful menu items have shown up on many restaurant menus and vegan cookbooks are constantly being added to the library. Get Healthy Marshall also holds potlucks and education events.

Houston VegFest 2011. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

In Houston, the first ever VegFest Houston was held by the Vegan Society of PEACE, and the Houston community turned out in support. I really admired how diverse the crowd was in Houston, and I’d love to see vegan communities elsewhere in Texas diversify. Dallas Vegan organized the second annual Texas State Veggie Fair. You know an event was good when the only complaint is that it was too successful!

Dallas resident Christy Morgan published her first cookbook Blissful Bites to rave reviews, and former Texan Joanna Vaught released a new cookbook of her best recipes compiled from her hit Yellow Rose Recipes, her blog, and her zines.

World-wide Vegan Bake Sale in Austin at Monkey Wrench Books. Photo by Come and Fake It. Licensed under creative commons

In the fundraising arena, thousands of dollars were raised through vegan bake sales across the state, through a group of athletes running in the San Antonio Rock’n'Roll Marathon, and through the zine Sunny Days in Texas.

And in miscellanea, Vegans Rock Austin organized the first Best of Vegan Austin Poll. The results haven’t been announced yet, but I was so excited to have an opportunity to vote for my favorite spots. Celeste’s Best finally launched their cookie dough at Wheatsville Coop after years of work. Baby Zach’s began whizzing up beans to turn out some outrageous hummus flavors.

Shirley Wilkes-Booth

There were a few sad events in 2011 as well. Iggi’s Texatarian closed up shop in Austin. I will spend years dreaming about the Hail Seitan. Jackalope vegan self destructed rather fantastically and, unfortunately, publicly. Mercy for Animals released an undercover video [link contains graphic content] of abuse at a Texas dairy in Hart. While these videos are powerful tools for animal advocacy, it makes my heart ache to think of the mistreated animals (and all those whose mistreatment isn’t documented). We lost animal advocate and Lone Star Chili Cook-off creator Shirley Wilkes-Johnson. Her memory lives on in all the animal she helped.

What will 2012 bring? I’m looking forward to Counter Culture’s brick-and-mortar store, a bakery from Kristen of the blog Sugar-Skull, and Austin’s first all-vegan grocery store Rabbit Food Grocery. In Fort Worth, Zombie’s Food Truck is opening any day now. I’m also anticipating Sunny Day Farms‘ move to a farm closer to Austin.

I’m absolutely certain I’ve left out important items. Tell me what I missed in the comments! Have a great 2012, everyone. We’ve got a lot to live up to!