Good to Go at the NATY

Good to Go at the NATY. Source: mollyjade

Austin has just been graced with another vegetarian, very vegan-friendly food cart. Good to Go is one a handful of trailers set up in a parking lot at 183 and Anderson called North Austin Trailer Yard, or NATY. When I first heard about this food trailer park, I was pretty skeptical. It’s an enormous parking lot surrounding by highway on two sides and a fairly busy road on a third. Not a tree in sight. Ugly, even by parking lot standards. But the NATY has transformed that area of the parking lot into something really pleasant.

Animal statues in front, with a peek of a bean bag toss in the rear. Source: mollyjade

You’ll find giant statues of a giraffe and a dinosaur, oversized board games, shade, and just a bit of greenery on the edges. It’s really a nice little spot to eat your dinner. And now, that dinner can be vegan.

Jenga, enbiggened. Source: mollyjade

Good to Go (not to be confused with Good 2 Go) is a vegetarian burger spot. Nearly everything on the menu can be made vegan. Of their four (yes, four!) vegan burger patties, three are homemade. The fourth is the wonderful hemp patty by Good Seed. I tried a patty melt with the black bean burger. The toasted bread and grilled onions were right on. The patty was great. Though the sandwich was a bit dry. Mayo isn’t traditional on a patty melt, but the sandwich needs a bit of something like that to even it out. Or maybe a thinner patty.

Patty melt with black bean patty and vegetable chips. Source: mollyjade

The star of the show, though, were the vegetable chips made from sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets. Crispy and just a bit sweet, they were indulgent without being greasy.

I highly recommend a visit. I can’t wait to go back and try the the Thai burger, which features marinated daikon and carrots, veggie fish sauce, cucumbers, and spicy mayo, with an edamame patty. Any spot with vegan fish sauce is alright by me!

Biscuits and Groovy

The Gloria Gaynor, vegan style. Source: mollyjade

It’s hard for me to believe I haven’t written about Biscuits and Groovy yet, but a quick search of the archives shows I haven’t. It’s a regular part of my brunch rotation now, but it took me awhile to warm up to it. For the first months they were open, their menu was in constant flux. First they were vegetarian (and vegan-friendly), and I was thrilled to support a new veg business. Then they added bacon to the menu, and I was crushed. Then they took it off. The menu morphed and changed multiple times. But, it’s finally settled down and I’ve adjusted my expectations.

Biscuits and Groovy serves, as you’ve probably guessed, biscuits. The groovy refers to a music swapping program, though it’s also how they refer to their gravies. The final menu does include eggs, dairy, and meat. Sigh. But almost everything on the menu can be made vegan. (One pet peeve, they label things “real” or “vegan.”) Order yourself a few fluffy biscuits and cover them with anything from Daiya cheese or gravy to jalapenos or sausage. My favorite is the Gloria Gaynor ($9) with gravy, tofu scramble, Daiya, bacon, sausage, jalapeno, and chives, though often I’ll just order a few biscuits with jam (sadly, vegan margarine is the one alternative they don’t carry). It’s a pretty good deal at a dollar per biscuit.

The food tends to take a while to make, even if you just get a biscuit with jam, but they have a fairly nice shaded area with green onions growing, which always gives me a kick for some reason. I spend my wait pulling the deal leaves off the onions and sipping coffee from Flight Path.

On the Road: Taco Bell

Source: mollyjade

In my mind, I eat wonderful home cooked meals, with occasional frequent breakast tacos and late Sunday brunch thrown in for variety. In reality, sometimes I find myself in the (relative) middle of nowhere trying to decide between a sad Subway sandwich or Taco Bell. October has me driving from Austin to DFW three times, so I’ve found myself in this situation more than I’d like lately.

Last weekend, Matt and I ended up in Hillsboro at 1:30 PM, with stomaches rumbling for lunch. That day, in the fight between bread-with-lettuce-and pickles at Subway and please-don’t-accidentally-add-“meat”-to-my-bean-burrito at Taco Bell (sad-plain-baked-potato at Wendy’s was a distant third place), the burrito won out. I’ve had really rotten luck modifying dishes at Taco Bell to make them vegan. My Bean and Cheese (hold the cheese) burrito comes out with extra cheese. My seven layer burrito minus the sour cream and cheese layers comes with a bonus meat layer. So I’m always a bit careful about ordering at Taco Bell. But after a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, I wanted something more substantial for lunch.

In case you don’t watch TV (or TV commercials), Taco Bell has a new Cantina Bell section on their menu. “Made out of real food” seems to be their message. “Guacamole from Real Haas Avocados” they brag.

The beginning of the rice layer of my burrito. Source: mollyjade

I ordered the Cantina Veggie Burrito minus the creamy cilantro sauce (which I hear isn’t vegan). It was OK. It’s hard not to compare this to Chipotle or Free Bird Burritos. Both have better ingredients and allow more customization. But, overall, it was a decent burrito. Beans, cilantro rice, corn salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole wrapped in a giant burrito and grilled. The fact that it was grilled was nice. My one real complaint is that the food was shoveled in parallel to the way the burrito was wrapped, so I went through a guacamole layer, then a corn layer, then a rice layer, then a black bean layer as I ate through my burrito.

It’s priced on par with Chipotle or Free Birds, and the veggie burrito is a bit cheaper than the steak or chicken version, which is nice since you’re getting less food. I wouldn’t go out of my way to try this, but if you’re stuck making do with vegan fast food options, I think it’s one of the best options.

Lower Carb Vegan Muffins

Source: mollyjade

Today was a weird day for me. I started a new treatment for my diabetes, which is sort of a big deal in some ways, but not that different in other ways. For the next week or so, I have to eat a bit carefully. Standard sized meals. No restaurant meals. No exercising. No donuts for breakfast, or, even worse, calling a cup of coffee breakfast. So, a bit nervous and with food on my mind, I baked muffins.

I made the lemon poppyseed muffins from Vegan Brunch, one of my favorite muffin recipes, with almond meal and white whole wheat flour in place of the traditional all purpose flour. This reduced the carb load of each muffin from 26g to 17g.

I’ve never baked with almond meal before. I think it made the muffins brown a bit better, but they’re also a bit more crumbly. Overall, I’m happy with the results. I might try reducing the sugar in the next batch.

Fancy Feast: Lenoir

When Lazy Smurf invited me to join her and two other bloggers for dinner at Lenoir, I was excited. I don’t get many opportunities to dress up and try the latest hit restaurant.

Lenoir is run by husband and wife team Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher. Todd is the chef, and he explained each course to us as it came out. He told us how he and Jessica split the work: he cooks the individual components of each dish, and Jessica tastes the final creation. (Guess which job I’d prefer!)

If you follow along with the Fall Lenoir menu, you’ll see that our four courses were largely made up of components of other dishes.

Source: mollyjade

The first course was a salad of radishes, cucumbers, and coconut bread dressed with black garlic dressing and dabs of spicy chow chow. The chef explained how the dressing was created by poaching the meyer lemons several times before emulsifying them with black garlic and a bit of mustard. (E2 types take note, there’s no oil in this dressing.) The chow chow was a fermented chili paste, and I wish I knew a bit about it because it’s very different from the cabbage relish I know as chow chow. I really liked each individual bit of the salad, but I found there were too many strong flavors for my taste taken all together. (And yet, I still finished every bite!)

Source: mollyjade

The second course was a sweet potato dish. Cold sweet potatoes were dressed with granola, arugula pesto, and kale chips. The kale chips were a great crunchy contrast against the soft sweet potatoes, and the arugula and kale kept this from veering toward Thanksgiving casserole territory.

Source: mollyjade

The third course is what won me over completely. After two cold salads, I was beginning to worry I’d leave a bit hungry after grazing on (tasty but) dainty vegetables all night. Much like the first course, there were lots of components playing together, but here I think they worked together perfectly. In the center is a packet of zucchini slices stuffed with a quinoa and eggplant mixture. The zucchini is sitting on a bed of mustard greens and a pool of curry sauce.  On top of the zucchini packet are thin, roasted slices of okra and shishito peppers. Thin slices of okra mean that you get a great, crispy texture without any of the okra’s hated slime. Around the dish is a garnish of corn and pomegranate arils.  The pomegranate arils and corn provided a bit of crunch in each bite. The total result is a warm, comforting, filling vegan dish.

Source: mollyjade

I was also thrilled with the final course. Upscale restaurants tend toward fruit platters and fruit sorbet for vegan desserts, so to receive a warm dish with multiple components was delightful. Crispy filo pastry stuff with warm apple filling and paired with coconut sorbet (such a different beast from fruit sorbets) and rum raisins. It was a perfect ending to a great meal.

I highly recommend Lenoir as a restaurant for vegans looking to celebrate a special occasion or just eat something a little out of the ordinary. I do suggest calling ahead (as we did). While these four courses were made largely of components of other dishes, there’s no way we would have received such thoughtful dishes without notice.

You can see what my dining companions thought of the meal here:
Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life
Muy Vegan
Rock’n’Realty

Cherry Tomato Salad

Cherry Tomato Salad. Source: mollyjade

My husband hates raw tomatoes. Hates. I love them. Except, biting into a cherry tomato and having the tomato guts burst apart in my mouth is a bit too much for me. So I generally stick to sliced tomatoes. (No one tell my husband or I’ll lose my cred as the Person Who Eats Everything.)

My favorite thing to do with the glut of cherry tomatoes in the summer is this salad adapted from a Mark Bittman recipe. (Though honestly, adapted is a bit much for a recipe with only a handful of ingredients.) The recipe appears in his giant How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but he summarizes it in this column on “101 Simple Salads for the Season” (the season presumably being summer). The full salad column is worth a read.

15. Cut cherry or grape tomatoes in half; toss with soy sauce, a bit of dark sesame oil and basil or cilantro. I love this — the tomato juice-soy thing is incredible.

Over time, I’ve changed it mostly due to laziness and my love of heat. I never seem to have fresh herbs at the same time I have tomatoes to use up. And everything is better with a bit of spice, in my book.

***

Cherry Tomato Salad

Halved cherry tomatoes
Soy sauce
Chili oil
Black pepper

In a bowl, drizzle cherry tomatoes with soy sauce. Add a dash or two of chili oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Eat soon.

Because the tomatoes give off so much juice, this dish becomes overly watery over time. So eat quickly!

Mystic Java Cafe and a Smoothie

For some reason, Mystic Java Cafe doesn’t get much love in Austin. Formerly Jeanie’s Java and located in Great Outdoors Nursery in South Congress, the cafe has a good-sized vegan menu along with smoothies, coffee drinks, and beer. (Mimosas coming soon!)

Vegan items at Mystic Java Cafe. Source: mollyjade

The last time I was there, I noticed a smoothie called the Peanut Butta Cup o’ Joe and decided that it was something I needed to make at home. It’s become my daily breakfast.

Coffee peanut butter banana smoothie.

Coffee Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

1 frozen banana
4 ounces cold brew coffee concentrate (or equivalent to 1 cup coffee)
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

The first few of these I had ended up being Coffee-peanut butter-banana-salmonella smoothies. Make sure your peanut butter isn’t on the recall list!

For anyone else watching carbs, this has 35g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, and 14g protein. If you like your smoothies on the sweeter side, you might want to add agave nectar or chocolate syrup to yours.

Potlucks: A Gentle Reminder

Raffle at Gathering of the Tribes. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Yesterday was the third biannual Gathering of the Tribes here in Austin. The aim of the event is to bring together the Austin veg community—social groups, activism groups, animal groups, the business community—for a meal and an exchange of ideas. I learned about so many great new businesses and opportunities (keep your eyes our for a new local vegan product at Wheatsville soon!) and met a lot of great people.

Chicken Fried Chickpea Cutlets adapted from the Chickpea Cutlet recipe in Veganomicon. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

I made chicken-fried chickpea cutlets using the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon as the base. I’ll post the recipe later in the week. I also ran a raffle to raise money for Sunny Day Farms. Unfortunately, that meant I was one of the last  people to get food. And this is what was left.

My plate at Gathering of the Tribes. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

It would have been just the chips and salsas, but someone showed up late with the sushi just as I was grabbing my food.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of the right way to do a potluck.

  • Bring something. Unless you walked in off the street, there is no excuse not to bring something.
  • Moreover, bring something you’re excited to eat. That’s probably not fruit salad (though we do have a big healthy eating community here, so bring fruit salad if it floats your boat). It’s also not chips and salsa, especially not Pace Picante. And it’s probably not the same take out dishes we all get at Wheatsville or Whole Foods all the time. Don’t get me wrong. I like to eat all of these thing. But as a vegan community, a potluck is our opportunity to be surrounded by wonderful vegan food that we didn’t have to cook, excepting your own contribution.
  • Bring enough food to feed a lot of people. If you could consume everything you bought by yourself, you haven’t brought enough. And if you’re coming as a couple, you have to bring twice as much food. You’re both eating, so you both have to contribute.
  • Don’t take huge portions or seconds before everyone has had an opportunity to get food. People bring small portion sizes so that everyone will get to try a dish. That doesn’t work if you take five mini cupcakes.
  • Help out. If it’s at someone’s house, help greet people or offer to clean up. If it’s at  a park, help greet people, volunteer to man a table, and help clean up. Potlucks are a group effort, so if you’re not helping, you’re taking a free ride.

I can hear the excuses now. I heard them in person last night. You don’t cook. You can’t afford it. No excuses. You’re an adult, you’re capable of cooking. (I’ll be more lenient for any university students who don’t have access to a kitchen. You can bring fruit salad or popcorn tofu.)

  • Learn to cook one thing really well. That’s your company/potluck dish. After you’ve made it several times, you’ll be able to do it quickly and expertly. Call it your signature dish.
  • Cornbread: this recipe is super simple (and cheap). You can get the ingredients at any grocery store. Try not to stir too much, otherwise, it’s impossible to mess up.
  • Garlic bread: again, it’s pretty hard to mess this up, and everyone loves garlic bread. It’s also a lot of food cheap.
  • Seven layer dip: It’s a step up from salsa, but still doesn’t require a stove or oven.
  • Nachos. Canned refried beans and chips are cheap. I like to add some salsa and a bit of cumin to the beans to spice them up and thin them out. Then just scoop a dollop of beans on each chip. Add some guacamole, vegan cheddar, chopped cilantro, chopped green onion, black olives, or pickled jalapenos as a garnish. Unless you use cheese, it doesn’t even need a trip through the oven.
  • Buy phyllo cups. Fill them with something. Bake. Filling ideas: bean dip, chorizo, Wayfare cheese, tofu scramble, chickpea salad, fruit pie filling, chocolate pudding, sauteed mushrooms, or nuts and chocolate.

I know there’s a lot of cooking talent in our community, and I know that everyone gets busy sometimes. But remember that these events are only as good as we make them, and I know we can make an incredible potluck.

It’s Bake Sale Day

German Apple Cake from the Joy of Vegan Baking by Collene Patrick-Goudreau

I just dropped off apple cake at the Triangle for Austin Bakes for Bastrop. We’re aiming to raise $10,000 for the survivors of the Texas wildfires.

I knew I wanted to make apple cake because it’s the time in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur known as the Days of Wwe. And apple cake is a traditional dish served this time of year. I asked on twitter if anyone had a good apple cake recipe, and several people recommended the German Apple Cake in The Joy of Vegan Baking.

It’s a really good cake, but it’s not the cake I was looking for. Jewish Apple Cake is much thicker than this. At least four inches thick (the Joy of Vegan Baking recipe is maybe an inch and a half thick). It’s made in a Bundt pan (not a springform pan). And it has apples grated into the cake (not just on top). If you have a vegan recipe like that, pass it my way.

Even though this isn’t the cake I was looking for, it was a delicious mistake. Hop on down to the grassy area at the Triangle to grab a piece before it’s all gone!

UPDATE: We raised over $12,500! http://austinbakes.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/thank-you-austin/

Vegan MoFo 2011

It’s time for the fifth annual Vegan Month of Food. Every year, vegans from all around the world set aside one month to blog our little hearts out about vegan food. Last year over 800 people participated, and I only expect more this year. You can sign up to participate here. Visit the new VeganMoFo headquarters for updates and roundups during October. Or grab a VeganMoFo banner for your blog.

I’ll be blogging new recipes, restaurant reviews, food guides, and recipe round-ups, and I’ll also introduce a brand new series. How about you? What are your plans for MoFo?