21-Day Vegan Kickstart–Texas Style

Barbecue-Style Portobellos from PCRM

Have you heard of the PCRM 21 Day Vegan Kickstart? It’s a nutrition program run by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a vegan health organization. The program courages people to switch to a healthy vegan diet. PCRM provides recipes, tips, and support for three weeks to anyone willing to take the challenge.

In June, the program is going Texan. Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the organization will be taking a book tour in Texas to promote his new book based on the kickstart program, 21 Day Weightloss Kickstart. (Presumably, “weightloss” sells more books than “vegan.”) Tour cities and dates haven’t been announced yet.

To promote the tour, PCRM has created a Texas-style 21 Day Vegan Kickstart, with recipes and a meal plan. They hit the holy trinity: chili, barbecue, and Tex-Mex. Ideally, I would have liked to see peaches instead of mango in the recipes. And maybe a baked chicken-fried portobello? And jambalaya for the Houston folks. I also think they missed an opportunity for some great baked breaded okra. What do you think of the recipes? Do they represent Texas at its healthiest?

Veg Options at Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park in Houston. Photo by markhodgins. Licensed under creative commons

PETA has once again named Minute Maid Park in Houston one of the most veg-friendly ballparks in the country. MMP ranked number 9 this year, a fall from last year’s number 3 position. The park was praised for its “veggie burgers, mushroom sliders, fresh fruit smoothies, made-to-order salads, and sun-dried tomato rigatoni”. No mention in the article about whether these dishes are vegan or just vegetarian.

Congrats Minute Maid Park! Now how about adding nutritional information to your website so guests can make informed decisions?

Candle Cafe Food Comes to Texas

Tuscan lasagna at Candle Cafe in New York City. Image by roboppy. Licensed under creative commons

Do you ever lament the fact that you live in Sugar Land instead of New York City because you can’t eat at Candle Cafe every day like the New York vegans with way too much money that probably only exist in your imagination? Well, soon you can stop dreaming and start living the dream!

Candle Cafe is going to create a line of frozen vegan dinners, and they’ll be available at Whole Foods nationwide. Meals will include seitan picatta (hell yeah!), vegan mac’n’cheese, ginger-miso stir fry, and tofu spinach ravioli. They’ll be priced about the same as other vegan frozen meals, so you may still need to be rich if you’re going to eat them every day. You can expect to see the meals in Whole Foods as soon as next month, though in my experience it can take awhile for Whole Foods to move new products onto shelves.

New Vegan Option at Pita Pit

Black bean patty wrap. Image from Pita Pit

Someone on Vegans Rock Austin linked to this article about Pita Pit in the Washington, D.C. Examiner. The article, which reads like a barely rewritten press release, announces a vegan black bean patty at all Pita Pit locations. Besides the awesome news about new vegan options, the article makes a great point that vegan food is becoming available at more and more mainstream restaurants, including Chipotle, zpizza, PF Changes, and Denny’s (Anyone know what’s vegan at Denny’s?).

I know fast food and chain restaurants aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I don’t think they’ll be completely disappearing anytime soon. So it’s great news that there are healthier and animal cruelty-free options at more and more of these fast food and fast casual restaurants. And it’s good to have another vegan option when traveling in unfamiliar places, too.

Locally, Pita Pit has locations in Houston, Austin, College Station, and Denton.

EDIT: Reading comprehension failure. I totally missed that this was a Compassion Over Killing project. Major kudos COK!

Sneak Peak: New Vegan Restaurant in San Antonio

From Jose Alfredo Cruz’s Facebook page

There was a great article in yesterday’s San Antonio Express-News about local chef Jose Alfredo Cruz. According to the article Cruz has gone vegan and is planning to open a vegan restaurant in San Antonio. I had to know more!

I contacted Cruz by email, and he had a lot to tell me about his food philosophy and the restaurant he plans to open. Cruz was originally influenced by the farm to table movement while living in Vermont. But Texas was slower to catch onto local food, and when Cruz returned to Texas he also returned to old eating and cooking habits. Until last Thanksgiving when he looked at his plate of traditional Thanksgiving food and realized he didn’t want to eat that way ever again.

Like many vegans, he soon realized that meat production isn’t just an animal issue, but also something that affects human health and environment. And now he wants to dedicate his career to introducing his friends and neighbors to tasty, yet familiar, vegan foods. And that’s Cruz’s plan now. To cook delicious mock meats, fried foods, and maybe a few healthier things, too, and to share them with everyone he can.

He’s planning to move into a new space in November. But for now he’s doing catering, looking at properties, and testing out dishes for his menu. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

Forks Over Knives Showing in Texas

Only Kale Can Save Us Now t-shirt from Herbivore Clothing. WANT!
I think you might have to live under a rock (or in a mansion in Abbottabad without internet connection) not to have heard about the new documentary film Forks Over Knives. But maybe not everyone obsessively reads healthy vegan cooking blogs like I do?
In case you don’t know the deal, Forks Over Knives explores the stories of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell. Both men grew up on farms and then later in life began to notice a pattern of unhealthy diets high in animal products and processed foods and an increase in many chronic diseases. The film posits that a lot so-called diseases of affluence (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke) can be avoided by eating an oil-free vegan diet. This theory is then tested by following the stories of real-life patients who change their diets and regain health.
Austinite Rip Esselstyn, creator of the Engine Two Diet, and honorary Texan Natala Constantine of Vegan Hope are two big proponents of an oil-free vegan diet for health. And if you’ve stepped into a Texas Whole Foods lately you’ve probably seen the explosion of Health Starts Here products, which are inspired by the oil-free vegan movement. In other words, Texas may well be the new face of healthy veganism. Who woulda thought?
Forks Over Knives will be showing in Austin, Dallas, and Houston on May 13. (Showtimes here.) Lots of tickets are being given away for free (follow me on twitter to find out about ticket give aways in Texas). Grab your friends and prepare to be inspired to eat more kale!
*As a person with a chronic disease that isn’t going to be cured by any change in diet, I have reservations about the language some people use to talk about health and vegan diets. But I think you should see this movie anyway because it still has a lot of good info to share. Just pretend I’m sitting next to you snarking about any overpromising.

Trader Joe’s to Open in Texas…Eventually

Y’all, super news! Trader Joe’s, BFF to vegans and budget shoppers alike, is finally planning to open stores in Texas. According to the Dallas Morning News, Trader Joe’s will be opening stores in Dallas, Austin, and Houston.

If you look at Trader Joe’s history in other parts of the country, they tend to open a few stores in select cities and then expand throughout the state from there. So I’m crossing my fingers for you, San Antonio and other Texas cities.
In gleeful anticipation, here are some posts from around the web about the vegan wonderland that is Trader Joe’s.
Trader Joe’s vegan list (not all-inclusive)
Vegan guide to TJ’s by Oregon Live
Laziest Vegans finds vegan gold at TJ’s
Top ten vegan beauty products at TJ’s

Follow-up: Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale 2011

All five Texas Worldwide Vegan Bake Sales took place this weekend. Don’t they look fabulous?

El Paso raised $400 for Animal Rescue League! Among the other goodies were these tasty-looking pumpkin spice cupcakes. Photo by El Paso Veg Snob
Box of goodies at the Dallas bake sale. Rumor is the kolaches were a big hit. Dallas raised over $2500 for Direct Relief International in Japan. Photo by sunnybear
Donuts and chocolate cookies flew off the table at the Austin sale. Austin raised over $1000 for Sunny Day Farms Animal Sanctuary. That’s enough money to pay for half a month’s food for the over 300 animals at the farm. Photo by Come and Fake It
The Vegan Society of Peace bake sale raised $811 for VegFest Houston, Food for Life Global, and Kinship Circle. Way to go Houston! I haven’t heard back from San Antonio yet. Green, how’d y’all do?

In total, Worldwide Vegan Bake Sales in Texas raised nearly $5000 for seven charities. This is the most successful year yet!

UPDATE: Green sold 163 desserts and donated $1 from each dessert sale to SARA. News is their desserts were just voted 3rd best in all of San Antonio by San Antonio Current readers. Awesome!

Houston: Green Seed Vegan

Vegan burger and sweet potato fries from Green Seed Vegan in Houston. Photo by Paul Galvani

Y’all, get a look at this burger. The vegan food truck trend has finally hit Houston. Green Seed Vegan is a vegan food truck near Texas Southern University. Their menu is split between cooked and raw food, and everything is 100% vegan. If you squint you can see the menu on their yelp page. (Psst, Green Seed Vegan, post your menu on your facebook and website, pretty please!)

The concept reminds me a bit of Counter Culture, though the menu offerings are completely different. Either way, it looks like they offer healthy food that still manages to be tasty and enticing. Check out this review on 29-95 and let me know what you think if you’ve been by.

5 Texas Vegan Bake Sales THIS WEEKEND

NYC vegan bake sale in 2010. Photo by wools. Licensed under creative commons

There’s a fantastic write up of Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale in CNN’s Eatocracy today. Be sure to check out the slide show with great vegan recipes and photos.

And visit your local vegan bake sale this weekend! Eat yummy food, spread the vegan word, and raise some money for some great organizations.
Saturday, April 30
Sunday, May 1