Thai Veggie Pie at Boomerang’s Pies

Thai veggie pie at Boomerang's Pies. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

The other day I was grabbing a link to the menu for Boomerang’s Pies for my post on vegan menus when I noticed they have a new vegan pie. What is with people making new vegan things in Austin and not telling me? I lost no time going to Boomerang’s to try it out.

If you remember, awhile back Boomerang made one of their pies, the Curry Veggie pie, vegan. Truthfully, I wasn’t real fond of the curry flavor, so I haven’t been back very often. So I was excited to try something they described as baby corn, water chestnuts, and carrots in peanut sauce. I am all over peanut sauce.

Inside shot. Check out the flakiness! The black sprinkle on top is pepper, not poppyseeds. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

The vegan crust is still good. That was the best part of the curry veggie pie, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s flaky, crispy, rich but not greasy, and not-at-all soggy from the filling. The veggie filling is mushy, which is how it’s supposed to be. There’s a bit of crunch from the water chestnuts though. And the peanut sauce is very, very faint. I’m not sure I would have noticed it, if I hadn’t been looking for it. It could use more peanut butter and maybe even some coconut milk, though that might push the pie beyond a reasonable level of richness. Fortunately, the pie is served with a spicy-sweet Thai dipping sauce, similar to what you’d get with fried spring rolls. As I’ve said before, a spicy sauce is all it takes to make me happy. The dipping sauce, the crust, and the novelty of a vegan hand pie really push this over the edge.

The one caveat is that they don’t make the Thai veggie pie every day. It’s on their online menu, but they haven’t added to the permanent menu in the store yet. The curry veggie pie should always be available. (For some reason it’s not marked as vegan on their online menu, but I asked, and it still is.) But if you want to try the Thai veggie pie specifically, you should call ahead and make sure it’s available.

Once again, thanks Boomerang’s for adding vegan items to your menu and for marking them as vegan.

Book Review: Blissful Bites

Blissful Bites by Christy Morgan

I was excited to hear that my friend and fellow Texan Christy Morgan was publishing a vegan cookbook, Blissful Bites. And I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book to review.

To begin with, there are beautiful photos throughout the book, unlike many vegan cookbooks which only have a color section. I work in publishing, so I know exactly why it’s not feasible to have color photos throughout a cookbook for a specialized audience, but I still like to see them as a reader. Another thing that I love about the book design is that each chapter has a table of contents. This makes it so easy to browse through the recipes or find a specific recipe.

The introduction walks you through Christy’s food philosophy, which is largely based on her macrobiotic training at the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts here in Austin. I admit, this part of the book wasn’t for me. I’m not looking for my food to make me blissful, and I’m a bit skeptical of some of her health claims. If you’re firmly in the science-based nutrition camp, I would skip to the end of the introduction where Christy included photos and directions of how to make basic knife cuts like chiffonade and julienne. The visual along with the directions is perfect for beginner cooks.

Even though I didn’t care for the nutrition information, this is actually a great cookbook for most people on special diets. The recipes are all low-glycemic index, which is good for us diabetics. Many of them are gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, or raw, and these recipes are flagged with symbols for easy identification. And there’s an emphasis on nutrient-dense foods. Anyone on a special diet for health reasons should absolutely pick up this book. It’s also a good buy for people interested in a whole foods-style of cooking, since Christy cooks by season, sweetens all her recipes with maple syrup or brown rice syrup, and uses whole grains.

Of course, these same qualities might be a downside for some people. Some recipes use harder-to-find ingredients like barley flour and coconut palm sugar. I’m certain I can find these things here in Austin, but if you only have access to a small grocery store with limited options, you may need to order some ingredients from the Internet or substitute something easier to find in order to make these recipes. This also isn’t a cookbook for picky eaters. Or at least my picky eater. And if you’re on a budget, know that some recipes contain as much as half a cup of maple syrup.

Polenta Fries from Blissful Bites by Christy Morgan. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

I took the book out for a spin and tried three recipes. First up were Sage-Infused Polenta Fries. This was a bit of a test for me since I’ve never successfully made firm polenta. I eat soft polenta all the time, but for some reason, I can never get it to firm up well. While my polenta fries aren’t as pretty as the ones pictured in the book, I’m enormously pleased with how firm they got. The recipe was really specific about how thick the polenta should be before you let it cool (the spoon needs to be able to stand up in the pot), and I think that made all the difference.

To go with the polenta fries, I also made the Cashew Garlic-Aioli, which contains nuts, coconut milk, lime juice, coconut oil, and a few other things. From the name, I was expecting a garlicky sauce to go with the fries, so I was a bit surprised when I dipped my first fry in the aioli. I liked it a lot, but it just didn’t go with the sage-flavored fries. Between the lime juice and coconut, it tasted very tropical. I ended up saving the aioli for another day, and it went perfectly with sweet potato fries. It was very creamy and held up well in the fridge.

The final recipe I tried was Chewy Trail Mix Bars. This one was a success with even my picky eater. Even though there’s a good deal of sugar in it (in the form of brown rice syrup), the almond butter, puffed brown rice, and oatmeal made this something I was happy to eat for breakfasts and snacks. And it made so much that the two of us weren’t able to finish it off in a week. Next time I make it, I’ll cut the recipe in half.

If you’re in Austin and you’d like to get a signed copy of Blissful Bites, head to Counter Culture on Saturday between 4 and 7 PM for a book release party. There will be samples of recipes from the book, cupcakes from Kristen at Sugar-Skull, and beer available by donation. And 20% of the proceeds from the book and all the beer donations go directly to Sunny Day Farms.

Read This Now: Vegan for Life

Have you read Vegan for Life yet? If not, you should move it to the top of your reading list. Whether you’re newly vegan (good for you!), a longtime vegan (keep it up!), or an aspiring vegan (you can do it!), the book will have something to offer you.

The book is a nutrition guide for vegans by vegan activists and registered dietitians Jack Norris and Ginny Messina. Both are well-regarded dietitians AND animal advocates, which makes their advice invaluable. Messina is coauthor of the ADA’s position paper of vegetarian and vegan diets, and Norris runs the website veganhealth.org as part of his work with Vegan Outreach. Their focus is on giving accurate, up-to-date nutrition information so people can feel confident going vegan and so they can stay vegan, too.

To begin with, the book is a solid guide to nutrition in general and vegan nutrition specifically. If you have no idea what you’re supposed to be eating, the book will guide you without overwhelming you. If you’ve been vegan awhile, it covers all those questions you’re tired of hearing about with straightforward answers you can repeat to your Aunt Gertrude at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Protein? Calcium? Soy? Vegan death flu? (just kidding)

Some of the answers might be a bit different from what you’d expect. Should vegans worry about protein? Say it with me, NO! Except, maybe we should worry just a teensy bit. Or rather, maybe we should make sure we’re eating our beans. If you’re including beans (or pistachios or quinoa) in your diet regularly, than you’re surely getting enough of the amino acid lysine, which can be a bit limited in other plant foods. If you don’t eat beans, pistachios or quinoa, you might need to keep a closer eye on your protein consumption.

There are some updates about other widely-repeated vegan nutrition advice, too. Calcium? We need just as much as a person eating the typical amount of meat an American eats. It’s not that we’re giving into lying, government-controlled vegan scaremongering. There’s just been more research into nutrition that means we have to adjust our views on what qualifies as a good diet. That’s how science works. When new information comes to light, we have to embrace it and adapt.

Beyond setting straight some outdated nutrition information, the book will put to rest most nutrition worries you might have. There’s advice on how to feed children,  how to be vegan in pregnancy, how to eat if you’re an athlete, how to eat vegan with special dietary concerns, how to eat vegan if you’re elderly, and how to go vegan in the first place. I love the simple recipe suggestions and meal plans. Because food doesn’t have to be complicated, right? There’s advice on how to stock a vegan pantry and how to cook vegan on a budget.

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about vegan nutrition, the book is worth picking up. It uses very straightforward, easy-to-understand language, and I think every vegan advocate should have these basics straight. It’s important to give correct information so people stay healthy and stay vegan.

Gobble Green Review

Ever thought about trying one of the many vegan food delivery services? Reader Erick Clark shares his review of the first of these companies, Gobble Green.

Always have a cat examine mystery boxes.

The box arrived on schedule, just like FedEx reported it would. It was seemingly ordinary, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wanted more than just an ordinary cardboard box. It sat in my office at work, distracting me, until quitting time. When I got home, I cut open the box and examined its contents. It was lined with two inch thick Styrofoam and at the top was a set of empty plastic bags, which had formerly contained frozen carbon dioxide, also known as dry ice. I discarded the empty plastic bags and examined the box’s contents, which included many other small bags. Each bag contained a hard to identify vacuum sealed substance and was labeled with a name and a list of ingredients. One bag of red stuff was labeled Gobble Green Meatloaf. It was frozen solid. I immediately moved the plastic bags of food out of the box and into my freezer. I’m living in the future, I thought.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I recently had the opportunity to buy a week’s worth of prepackaged vegan meals from a company called Gobble Green. I had heard about meal services like this, but had never really considered ordering food from one. I cook regularly and Austin has enough vegan-friendly restaurants, that I never felt the need to have pre-prepared meals shipped to me across the country. But I got a deal, a group deal to be precise, it was a deal I couldn’t turn down. Gobble Green is a Los Angeles-based company that is in its own words, “an online marketplace where you will find a diverse and frequently updated selection of healthy, pre-packaged vegan meals.” They have a variety of meal plans you can choose from, check out their website for the details.


Food not guaranteed to float eerily in space


After securing most of the food in my freezer, I took out several plastic bags and put them on my counter. One bag was labeled “Pancakes” and appeared to contain, appropriately enough, pancakes. Another read “Ocean Medley Stew” and appeared to contain a brownish red mixture which did not look edible. I kept thinking of that scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the people on the space shuttle were drinking meals from straws. Above each straw was a drawing of the food they were supposedly consuming, such as corn, fish, cheese, etc. Gobble Green should really attach pictures to each plastic bag of what each meal is supposed to look like when its prepared, I thought. Not that I minded, I like the idea of eating space food.

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this supposed to be a review? Get to the part where you talk about the food. Instead I’d like to share with you my thoughts on why the popular sci-fi TV show Firefly was [ed. note: tragically] cancelled and how, with some precise planning and minimal loss of life, the show can be brought back. Just kidding, here’s the part about the food.


Quinoa meatloaf


First I tried the “meatloaf.” It was quinoa-based, not like the usual lentil meatloaf. It was pretty good. Quinoa wouldn’t be my first choice as a basis for a mock-meatloaf, and for good reason. It’s a grain, it doesn’t have the right texture, but it was still pretty good. I read the nutritional information and was impressed to learn that the meatloaf had 37.5 grams of protein. That’s a lot.

For those not in the know, the USDA daily recommended amount of protein is 50 grams (more or less.) I’m hesitant to bring this up, I don’t want to feed the ignorant notion that we vegans have to worry about getting enough protein. Whenever someone asks me, “where do you get your protein?” I feel sad for them and their pathetic, uneducated existence. I mention this because I was in the middle of a cross-fit exercise program while eating these meals from Gobble Green. The program involved a lot of lifting weights and jumping up and down in my living room. I wanted to get a lot of protein at that point to really get the most out of the workout routine, around 100 grams a day, far more than most people need. I had to resort to supplements in order to get enough protein without also getting a lot of fat or other stuff I didn’t want. Not all of Gobble Green’s meals had that much protein, but I was able to cut way back on the amount of supplements I was consuming.


Ocean Medley Stew before
Green Medley Stew after


Another meal I tried was the previously mentioned Ocean Medley Stew. Though it looked odd vacuumed-sealed in plastic, warmed up in a microwave it turned out really well. The dish had potatoes, tomatoes, and TVP, among other ingredients, and was one of the best meals I got from Gobble Green. It was spicy, though not so much you couldn’t taste the ingredients in the stew. I have no idea why they called it Ocean Medley Stew, and I don’t really care, it was good (it had 43 grams of protein, in case you were wondering.)

Tofu scramble “Eggs”


Another dish I tried was the scrambled “Eggs.” Tofu scramble is one of those dishes that has been attempted by a lot restaurants. Many have tried, many have failed. Gobble Green’s scramble was a worthy attempt, but alas, it was mediocre at best. It was spicy-hot to a point where that was all I could taste. Also in the box were banana pancakes, which contained no bananas. The pancakes were also only mediocre, I think they lost something in their translation to vacuum-packed-frozen-ese. But with fresh bananas and maple syrup added, it really didn’t matter if they were made of the cardboard box they came in.

Banana pancakes post-banana-ing

Also worth a mention is the baked vegetable sandwich. This was one of my favorites, I wish I could order more sandwiches and Ocean Medley Stew without committing to a long and pricey meal plan. I got a really good deal on my meals and I only had to buy a week’s worth. Normally Gobble Green’s meal plans are a month long and at first seem a little pricey. But if you do a little math and figure out how much each meal would cost, it actually is fairly reasonable (but still expensive). Gobble Green’s frozen meals are quite a bit more expensive than anything you will find in the freezer section of your above average supermarket, but they generally are better and healthier than the frozen entrees in the supermarket.


It’s also really convenient. For a week I didn’t have to worry about food. Every meal was planned out for me. I didn’t have to cook, or read the ingredients on a box to look for animal products. Everything was microwavable and ready in minutes. Three meals a day for seven days. I ate like a king, or really more like a duke or something, a vegan duke. If I were transitioning to veganism and had some cash to burn, Gobble Green would be the easiest way to do it. If I had no time to cook and didn’t want to go out to eat all the time, I would definitely buy more meals from Gobble Green.

Normally I’d summarize what I had written above in this paragraph. That’s what I learned in kollege. Maybe you skipped down to this part, hoping to avoid reading the full review, and were hoping I’d have a nice summary waiting for you here. Maybe I lost you at the point where I mentioned Firefly. Sorry, no dice. Gobble Green, you can learn more at your local library, which is to say google Gobble Green to get more info.

Others’ reviews: Vegeria

Check out what Carrot and Potato Time, a San Antonio vegan blog, has to say about Vegeria

I’ll tell you right off the bat that I have expectations when it comes to Mexican food. Growing up and having spent most of my life in San Diego, I have learned how to make vegan Mexican meals at home and if a restaurant dish isn’t at least equal to what I can prepare, I’d rather make it myself.

Read the glowing review here.

Loving Hut in Arlington

I was thrilled when I heard that a Loving Hut opened in Arlington, Texas. I grew up in Arlington. It’s full of chain restaurants, and at times there wasn’t even a single independent coffee shop. So a completely vegan restaurant (albeit a chain) opening was a huge deal.

Last time I visited my parents we stopped by. Loving Hut has an interesting business model. It’s a chain of restaurants created by Supreme Master Ching Hai. According to their U.S. website:

Loving Hut is created with a vision that all beings could live in peace, love and harmony with each other and the planet. Loving Hut chain restaurants are newly opening around the world. It is an invitation to gourmet cuisine made with wholesome vegan ingredients, offering an accessible starting point for those making the noble transition to a plant-based diet.

Every restaurant is individually run, so you’ll find a different menu at each one. And every restaurant also has Supreme Master TV playing at all times.

Loving Hut on Matlock in Arlington, TX.  Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

The Arlington location is in a strip mall. Everything in Arlington is in a strip mall. It’s very slick-looking inside. The atmosphere is like a Starbucks or Apple store. The sound on the TV was off, and with your back to it, you’d never be able to guess what sort of restaurant you were in. In other words, it doesn’t look at all alternative or crunchy. 



Gardener’s Wrap with slaw. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons



I got the Gardener’s Wrap with a side of slaw. The wrap has soy protein, lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado. The soy protein wasn’t remarkable or offensive. Like many soy products, it’s a flavor chameleon. Which is why I think it would be better suited to stronger flavors like barbecue sauce. I also would have liked more mayo on my slaw.

Pho at Loving Hut in Arlington, TX. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

My mom got the pho. She really liked it, though was surprised that the zucchini was noodle-shaped and raw. That was exactly what I expected. I think zucchini noodles are pretty common in vegan circles, but haven’t yet gone mainstream. She was happy to find “normal” food on the menu. (More on this later.)

Baguette Charm at Loving Hut in Arlington, TX. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons
My father got the Baguette Charm, which seemed like a take on a Philly cheesesteak. Again, this was made with soy protein, and it could have used some stronger flavors. But props to my dad for being adventurous. That’s potato salad on the side, and it was everyone’s favorite part of the meal. Definitely get the potato salad if you come. I believe “wonderful” was thrown around a lot.
Sloppy Jenny with corn. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons
My husband got the Sloppy Jenny, which is a veggie dog with chili, onions, relish, cole slaw, mustard, and homemade mayo. Matt really enjoyed it and will probably get again next time.
In general, my mother really liked the restaurant. She said the food on the menu looked more normal than the food at Spiral Diner, her only other experience with a vegan restaurant. The thing is, I don’t think that’s true. The menus are pretty similar in their use of things like soy, seitan, and vegan cheese. Both menus have familiar dishes like pasta marinara and beans and rice.

I think either my mother has had several years to get used to me and my vegan food since our last visit to Spiral Diner, or, more likely, the crowd and atmosphere at Loving Hut was less intimidating. You’re fairly likely to run into someone with tattoos, piercings, and/or unnaturally colored hair at Spiral Diner. And while someone in my generation wouldn’t blink at any of those, I think for my parents those are still signifiers of counterculture. The crowd at Loving Hut wasn’t any different than the crowd at a Starbucks. A bit young, but otherwise unremarkable. 

Another difference, and a really positive one, is that Loving Hut prints photos of all their menu items. This is really great for people who have never eaten seitan or other vegan specialty foods, and I think this probably helped my mother’s comfort level as well.

So overall, the food was pretty good, but not exceptional. I’m still very pleased to be able to find so many vegan choices in Arlington. And I’m looking forward to going back to check out their desserts and baked goods.

Austin review: Terra Burger

Terra Burger

I’ve been craving a good veggie burger for a few weeks, and I made a pretty tasty one the other day, but, in the confusion of getting Fluffster out the door and to the vet at 7:00am this morning, I forgot to pack a lunch. I needed to go to Eclectic Eyewear, anyway, to get my glasses adjusted (again), so I decided to hit up Terra Burger, having heard mostly great things about it.

I skipped the vegan milkshake (and, oh, how difficult that was), because not only is it $3.95 to begin with, but there is a $1.50 surcharge for vegan milk. What?! Haven’t you had it up to here with vegan surcharges? I know I have. I mean, for heaven’s sake, soy or rice milk are not even much more costly than cow’s milk, and it won’t go bad after a week in the fridge, either! Sheesh.

As others have complained, at $5.99, their fairly middle-of-the-road burger is a tad overpriced. It was serviceable, don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed it; the “meaty” middle was better than average. But it didn’t knock me out. Props to Terra Burger for offering Vegenaise, though – it’s so nice not to have to pack my own! That alone makes it worth a visit. I also tried the sweet potato fries, and found them pretty durn delicious. All in all, a satisfying lunch.

Sweet potato fries

I might go back if I find myself in the northwest campus area around lunch time, as there aren’t many other options around there, with the exception of Kerbey Lane (which is about a full mile from my office). I find their concept a fairly positive one, though I can’t really get past all signs shouting “Sustainable!” hanging in a place that serves beef.

Terra Burger
2522 Guadalupe
Austin, TX 78705

Cross posted from stellatex.

Enchilada plate

Just because, around here, it’s always enchilada o’clock.

Mushroom and spinach enchiladas with ranchera sauce and guacamole, served with requisite sides of Spanish rice and refried beans, El Mercado on Lavaca, Austin.

All their beans are vegetarian, as is the rice, which makes dining hear a pleasantly worry-free – if a little bland – experience. They have really good, warm, greasy chips and tasty salsa, and their margaritas are strong and cheap.

Cross posted from stellatex.

mofo

Fair food

Well, our trip to the State Fair of Texas turned out pretty well. It was overcast and cool but never rained, and we had not only beer and fries, but managed to find what we can only assume was a vegan burrito. The owner of the food stand in question came out, phone attached to ear, diamond encrusted Texas-shaped pinky ring on finger, and diligently answered our questions before ordering the kitchen to whip up a bean, lettuce, tomato, and guacamole burrito with side of jalapeños – even giving us a big discount. He even had Firemen’s #4 – on tap! I hadn’t seen this stuff outside Austin before, so, all in all, we were pretty happy fairgoers.

We also managed to totally avoid the livestock “show” while visiting the automobile building, the Hall of State, and the Midway, where we took a scream-filled ride on the pirate ship. Win.

Fair food

The boy loved the retro State Fair beer cups. They’ve looked like this for as long as I can remember.

mofo

Cross posted from stellatex.