Being Vegan in Austin (Part 1)

This was our fourth trip to one of our favorite places in the US, Austin Texas. This trip also had several firsts however – the first time we’d visited in the summer (yes, people thought we were crazy) and also the first time we’d visited since becoming vegan. Well, we had a fabulous trip and I can safely confirm Sir Paul McCartney was right – it’s very very easy to be vegan in Austin. And if you stay out of the afternoon sun (and make sure you run before 8am) it’s also easy to be runners visiting in August. Some highlights of our trip below…

Wednesday

We arrived Wednesday night around 5pm to the same VRBO we alway stay in – on the quieter end of 6th Street, a block away from Wholefoods Flagship Store (we had picked up some essentials on the way from the airport) and next to the original Z Tejas, which is nothing like the fancy ones you see in suburban shopping malls (Bellevue, yes, I am looking at you….).

I had read about Arlo’s Vegan Bacon Cheeseburgers so we drove down East 6th and found the truck – amusingly enough next to Cheer Up Charlies bar (made more famous by the Hipster Nation series on You Tube). I ordered the famous Bacon and Cheese (in fact crispy Seitan and Daiya, and a homemade patty…and a great roll..and ketchup, pickles, onion and Veganaise) and Dave ordered the BBQ Burger. 14 bucks. Unbelievably good, we would definitely go back and would have gone again if we had more time.

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After Arlo’s we went to Bar Lamar in Wholefoods, people watching central. How could a wine bar in an enormous grocery store with a DJ and many different restaurants where you can get the food delivered to you at the bar not be? We had some incredible tap wine, chatted to the guy we remembered behind the bar and called it a night.

Thursday

We woke early and went for a great (hot) 3 mile run along the train tracks and Lady Bird Lake. We met our friend Carrie for lunch at Bouldin Creek Cafe where Carrie had a salad, I had a tofu scramble with nooch, mushrooms and spinach and Dave had a burger with an enormous tasty salad. Spent the rest of the day exploring Austin a little more (and particularly the area where we’ll be living) and ventured to Guero’s Taco Bar on South Congress that evening since we’d heard about the vegan menu – delicious. Started off with Queso (loads of lime, yummy) and onto Enchiladas and Tacos. Plus the nicest guy serving us…

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Friday

A lot more exploring, including UT campus (stunning) and the Elizabeth Ney Museum in Wallingford (oops, Hyde Park, it’s so like Wallingford in Seattle it’s a little scary). Then onto somewhere we had both read a lot about and really wanted to try – the Whip In – Namaste Y’All! How do I describe this place? An Indian family opened a grocery store I’m assuming around 20 years ago…started specializing in beer and wine….opened a liquor store next door (Beverage World)…started brewing their own beer…opened a bar in the grocery store with traditional Indian stools and wood, opened up a stage for Bollywood Music…then started cooking food (lots of it vegan). Dave and I both had bowls – me with Corn, Rice, Peppers and him Dhal with rice. Unbelievably good and one of the coolest places we’ve ever eaten. 12 bucks for lunch. Seattle take note.

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After having a nap to digest all that food we did some more exploring of our hood and made a valiant attempt to go to Barton Springs to swim but found out it’s teen mating ground in the summer (think packs of spotty 14 year old boys following round packs of 14 year old Taylor Swift lookalikes) so tried to swim in Big Stacy Pool (which was closed, no chlorine). Oh well.

Both of us were craving pasta and decided to try out the place we’d loved several times before when carbo loading for the half marathon – Quattro Gatti  – what a great idea. This place has real Italian food – and makes its own bread. I had Spaghetti a la Norma, Dave had Arrabatia. Both exceptional, pasta perfectly al dente, great wine and service and the owner rattling on in Italian and throwing his arms around. Great to know we can still come to our favorite places, photo below. More on Austin in Part 2.

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A New Find and An Old Favorite

This weekend, both kids away at camp, we decided to explore Seattle’s International District. Between buying new woks, new sauces, being amazed at the array of produce, coming across the Japanese Internment Memorial and going to the Wing Luke Museum for the first time we also found time for Cross Fit (me), a trip to Ballard for dinner on Saturday Night (see below) and a 6 mile Sunday AM run – the perfect excuse to visit our favorite Seattle Brunch Spot!

Several weeks ago, Dave and I both noticed around the same time that the Golden Beetle in Ballard had a vegan menu. We’ve been before to Tilth (also Maria Hines), and I’d been to Golden Beetle with a girlfriend for drinks BV (Before Vegan) but the food looked so good we booked a table. The food was incredible, the drinks were great and the service was super super friendly  – we stuffed ourselves and we will definitely be back.

First up, we had the Pita that came with oil with pinenuts, roasted serrano hummus and something called Mumharra whieh was ground walnuts with pomegranate and molasses. All three dips were great, but the walnut one was incredible – photo below

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Next up – some great tasty fries with sumac (and more Mumharra for dipping – nearly licked the bowl!) and a very refreshing salad of radish, spring onion and watercress

Image…..swiftly followed by some super fresh falafel with pickled red cabbage (getting very full at this point!) and finally some Chickpea and Lemon Stew – if only WordPress would let me post more photos🙂

Sunday morning, after a fast 6 mile run around Greenlake and Woodland Park, we returned to our absolute favorite brunch spot in Seattle – Wayward Cafe. As normal, eyes were bigger than belly and I had the breakfast sandwich with hash browns (home made biscuit, cheezy tofu and sausage) and Dave had the waffle, home fries and more sausage. We ate maybe half of it, but godammit it makes for great leftovers!

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4th July

Best 4th July since moving to the US. Started off with a run to Crossfit – Fight Gone Bad – and a run home with Dave, shower and our favorite Pizza at Mio Posto. Now being in possession of my Lodge Skillet Pan, there was no excuse but to try my hand at Socca for the first time (see below in the pan). Everybody loved it, including the dog – who knew Socca was the dog equivalent of cat nip? – I looked for many recipes which all looked basically the same – very easy to cook in the oven and served with some hummus, pesto and punk rock labs cashew cheese.

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Socca was quickly followed by Field Roast Hot Dogs (for us), Steak for the kids, plus some smashed potatoes (Fingerlings, boiled, then smashed, olive oil and sage added, baked in oven), corn on the cob (done on grill with pesto, although next time I’m trying lime and coconut butter as suggested by Isa), Broccoli and Carrots (also roasted in the oven) and some great wine. 

I really should be better at writing down recipes. 

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Pizza (with thanks to Makini Howell @ Plum and Mio Posto for the inspiration)

Well tonight I finally got to make (instead of purchasing) a vegan pizza – with a little help and inspiration from the one Makini Howell whipped up for us at Book Larder a while ago, plus our favorite at our local pizza place Mio Posto (tomato sauce, roasted potatoes, onion, arugula on that one).

I will definitely do this again – maybe with tomato sauce next time (for that I need to wait for Toshi our neighbor’s tomatoes – best in the world) and I think shrooms would be great as well.

Here’s how I made it (sorry, no real measurements)

Ingredients:

1 pack of Trader Joes Wheat Pizza Dough ($1.29!)

About 6 slices off a whole onion of very thinly sliced onion

About half a large potato, very thinly sliced

Pesto made with: some old basil hanging around in the fridge, some arugula, some walnuts, some olive oil, two cloves garlic and a generous throw in of nutritional yeast. Plus some tomato paste (puree) and a smear of Punk Rock Labs Cashew Herb Cheese

Some broccolini

A very fine sprinkling of Trader Joe’s vegan mozzarella shreds (assume they are Daiya)

Method:

1) Leave your pizza dough to rest for 20 minutes, meanwhile…put the oven onto highest setting then….

2) Steam your very thinly sliced potato until softish, sweat your very thinly sliced onions in earth balance until sweet. Chop your broccolini up small and throw into overproof dish with a bit of olive oil and salt to begin cooking while over warming up (about 10 minutes?). Make your pesto with the ingredients above.

3) Roll out pizza dough, spread with the pesto. Arrange onions, potatoes, broccolini on top. Sprinkle with vegan mozzarella. I also added some fresh chopped oregano from the garden.

4) Cook for around 15 minutes at around 490/500F and serve with salad.

Here’s what it looked like – definitely a keeper.

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Creamy Leek Risotto with roasted sprouts and carrots

I perfected this risotto about 4 months into us going vegan, and it consistently ranks as one of  our favorite meals. Along with Vegan Yum Yum’s Seven Spice Udon this is Dave’s favorite thing I cook – I think he’d eat it every day. I’ve cooked it for at least three sets of friends (vegans and meat eaters) who have genuinely been amazed how creamy it is, and the fact there’s no cheese in it. If, like me, you love watching over a risotto (yes, it is an act of love and the most important thing is – dont hurry it! – the longer it takes to cook the better it is) then I really suggest you try making this.

Oh, and advance apologies – I never measure anything so I wrote this down for a friend a couple of months ago. She assures me the measurements are correct.

Ingredients for the Risotto:

• 5 oz Arborio rice
• 1 leek, chopped finely
• 1 shallot, chopped finely (or onion, if you dont have any shallots)
• Veg stock (not sure how much since I keep adding – I like ‘no chicken’ Just Bouillon.

• Saffron (optional)
• Glass of white wine (no need to be fresh)
• Trace olive oil
• Salt and Pepper
• 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, some Vegan Parmesan if you have

Ingredients for the Roasted Veg:

• 6-8 Brussel Sprouts, outer layers taken off, cut in half
• 2 carrots, sliced thinly
• Splash Balsamic, Olive Oil
• Salt and Pepper, maybe some chopped garlic if you have

Method:

Turn oven on 380, throw roasted veg into pan with balsamic and olive oil, season, cook for 45 minutes. Mix around every 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile make the risotto (takes around half hour to make risotto)

To make the risotto, heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the leek and shallot for 5 minutes, add the Arborio rice and saffron, coat the rice with the oil (won’t be much oil at all), cook for a couple of minutes. Add the glass of wine, stir regularly until absorbed. Add Salt and Pepper, Nutritional Yeast, and VERY gradually add the vegetable stock, a ladle at a time, each time waiting for it to be absorbed by rice before adding more. Stir regularly (and I mean regularly, constantly). Cook over a low heat, the longer it takes the yummier it is. It generally takes me around 45 minutes. Risotto is done when the rice is soft with a slight bite and very creamy. If you have some hanging around, throw some vegan parmesan in at the end as well

Serve risotto in wide bowls, add roasted veg to the side.

Serves two generously, and this is what it looks like (last night I also added some basil and oregano from the garden):

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Dinner with Makini Howell of Plum Bistro

A month or so ago I saw a post on a local vegan blog detailing an evening with Makini Howell (of Plum Bistro) where myself and 9 other peeps got to watch her cook and pick up a signed copy of her cookbook she’s just released. Naturally I jumped at the chance!

Well, Thursday came round and what a delightul evening it was. Makini is just gorgeous – open, bubbly, chatty, and answered all our random questions inbetween cooking some delicious food paired with some great wine. Not only that, I got to meet some other lovely local weirdos (sorry, vegans) like ourselves.

So what did we eat? Well to start, although not listed as part of the cooking demo, Makini treated us to some of her signature Mac and Yease – the recipe is not in the book (I assume closely guarded secret) but OMG it was good (pic below)

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Onto the meal proper, our first course was a cauliflower soup – with some fennel, onion etc. This was pre made and I opted to have the non pureed, less creamy version – topped with smoked tofu ‘bacon bits’ and grilled fennel – very good – crappy photo:

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Next up was a miner’s lettuce salad with a Pernod and plum sake dressing (!) and barbecued plums:

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Then onto what was my absolute favorite of the evening. Not in the cookbook since Makini is still perfecting the recipe but it was basically a take on crab cakes – onion and garlic sauteed and mixed with raw, chopped portobello ‘butts’ (this recipe was devised to use up all the butts from the burgers served at the Bistro) some soy cream, dill, lemon zest and a bit of hot sauce, then rolled in panko, seared and finished off in the oven. This ‘crab cake’ was to die for – unbelievably tasty and the photo does not do it justice.

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Next up was Pizza – the one on the front of the cookbook, but done with miners lettuce rather than arugula. After showing us how to make the ricotta, Makini spread some pesto (walnuts, basil and arugula – no pine nuts since too pricey – this was to show us how we could cook at home – and interestingly no nutritional yeast) onto the bases, added some scoops of the ricotta and barbecued plums and griled fennel. Yum. There was even some left over so I took a slice home for Dave and he loved it too.

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We finished off with a rhubarb tarb with streusel topping and coconut ice cream. Photo below is a pic of Makini and the gal from Book Larder (where the event was held) prepping the very pretty desserts:

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All in all a really fun evening – I learnt from other guests tips on where to eat, and we all learnt from Makini how to cook some really wonderful and inventive food. We haven’t been to Plum for brunch yet, but have to go soon since I really need another of those mushroomy crab cake thingys.

Oh, and sorry that some of these photos are crappy!

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Vegan Cheese

Just a quick note rather than what can accurately be termed as a post.

When we switched up our diet nearly a year ago, I tried all manner of vegan cheeses and nearly gagged on all of them. Well, either I was trying the wrong ones or our taste buds have changed since I now love:

  • Vegan Parmesan (in a shaker, perfect over pasta)
  • Daiya Mozzarella (not convinced as yet on the cheddar flavour)
  • Heido Ho Veganics Smoked Gouda – OMG – on crackers. I also snuck some into Red Robin to put on my Boca Burger (dont judge). Cant wait to try the other flavours

Next up, I’ve heard Follow Your Heart Mozzarella and Cheddar flavours are good.

On Sunday night, I finally had the balls to make myself a griled cheese sandwich (I had been avoiding doing so, since I thought I would be really disappointed)  Dave’s Killer Bread with Daiya Mozzarella and some lightly grilled onions and mushrooms, fried a bit in some Earth Balance. No, not very healthy but it was delicious! Cant wait to try more variations….

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