Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy Christmas!

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I’m here in Florida where I’m enjoying the sun and the pool. But I sure miss the beagles and the guy who stayed home to take care of them.

Happy Christmas! Peace on Earth.

Get down to Wasota African Cuisine

When I first came to Austin I had a printed out list of the vegetarian restaurants in town and all those places hold a special place in my heart. Mr. Natural, Bouldin Creek, and the World Beat Cafe were all on the list, and the latter, like so many other restaurants I loved, closed down for the saddest reason ever. The owner and chef, Lawrence Osas Eguakun, had been diagnosed with cancer and not given much of a chance. It would always make me sad whenever I passed the spot where the World Beat was.

When I heard a couple month ago that not only was Lawrence better but he was opening a new vegan friendly west African trailer just south of the river I think I cried. I’m emotional. I was so excited to see the Wasota African Cuisine trailer and Lawrence was nice as ever offering Dan free samples of everything when he couldn’t make up his mind. The thing is the menu is vast and there are so many vegan options that you should just bring all of your indecisive friends are get one of everything. All the vegan food is made separately from the meat so you can use 100 percent of your brain power figuring out what sounds best.Of course, the easiest option is to go for the Wasota platter. Although I really want to try other things on the menu every single bit of the platter is perfect. The chopped spinach was so succulent and delicious, the black-eyed peas were cooked to perfection, and the Jollof Rice could be a meal in itself. Rice and beans and greens are such a perfect meal but it is impossible to pass up the Akara and the plantains. Trust me. Get both of these no matter what you order. I promise you will love it. Even if you are a super healthy raw food quantum level vegan and pass on deep fried stuff, this is the time to get down with the rest of us. You can just eat a bunch of goji berries tomorrow.Everything is smothered in spicy Benin sauce, if you fear the spice though you can get it on the side. Or if you love it you can get more on the side. He’ll ask you regardless and then all you have to do is wait in anticipation.

There are open daily from 11-9 and if it is too hot or too cold to sit outside order ahead and bring it home. Or bring some to me. It can be your good deed for the day.

Oh and just when you think things can’t get better, there is a vegan ice cream trailer called Kat’s in the same trailer park of course then after that you might need a long Thanksgiving style nap.

Queso Controversy

I am such a huge fan of Food For Lovers Queso, I have blogged about it probably 10 times and have mentioned it on twitter, I don’t know, every day? Last year I voted it my favorite new vegan product. The queso makes everything taste better and it is a total obsession. I have never really liked any vegan cheese product but their queso is different, smooth, creamy, noochy, spicy and utterly delicious. I met the creators Chris and Crystal just this year, though I have “known” Crystal for many years from reading her blog Vegan Explosion, and from posting on the PPK and VRA. I have watched the entire process of them setting up their business, making amazing queso, and getting distribution slowly starting in Austin and moving throughout the world. They are always working hard to promote veganism, help animals, and improve the vegan community in Austin.

I remember waiting for the queso to hit the stores last summer. I would check every time I went to Wheatsville and at Whole Foods and one day I noticed a new locally made product, Nacho Mom’s Vegan Queso. I was really surprised because I hadn’t heard anything about another vegan queso, certainly not another one from Austin Texas so it seemed really strange. I also thought it was weird that her label was similar to the Food For Lover’s design with the heart and the banner. I mean, I wouldn’t think of hearts and queso usually go together normally, it only makes sense in the context of Chris & Crystal being so crazy in love.

Also, I had never heard of Nacho Mom and I follow the Austin vegan scene pretty closely. They were billing themselves as the “world famous vegan queso”. To me, the world famous one was obviously Chris and Crystals. People talk about it all the time.

Now, today I am completely disgusted. I read on Crystal and Chris’ facebook the whole story, with links and the timeline, that seems to prove that Nacho mom didn’t just copy their idea, they might have stolen the recipe to begin with and even might have actively tried to hold off production of Food For Lover’s product which made it second to the market place after the holdups.

According to them, Chris & Crystal met with Whole Foods on June 1, 2010. I even remember her excitedly posting about it because on the same day they launched the site and the label design. Whole Foods told them to get in contact with Gourmet Resources, a food manufacturer here in Austin and they met the owner Alex Weeks. They had to submit their recipe along with an NDA (non disclosure agreement) so they could determine the cost per bottle and create the recipe in larger quantities.  They all signed the NDA on June 8th, 2010.

After that they started testing the recipe and things got problematic. They said they would submit a recipe and then the batch would turn out badly because the manufacturer miscalculated something. They couldn’t figure out why things kept going wrong, and it seemed that Alex was avoiding them and after blowing a ton of money they switched to another manufacturing company at the end of July. They even had to get a lawyer “to request she send over all documents/recipes/formulas belonging to us.”

Then at the beginning of August they were told by their buyer that another company, Fat Goblin, had approached them with a new vegan queso.  So they started to research this new company. Here I am going to quote directly from FB what they found:

– FatGoblin.com was started on June 17th, 2010.

– The WHOIS Registry states FatGoblin.com, NachoMoms.com and VeganQueso.com is owned by “Chef Alana at 5416 Agatha Circle”:
http://veganexplosion.com/img/fb/fatgoblin-whois.jpg
(Source: http://who.godaddy.com/whois.aspx?domain=fatgoblin.com)

– Chef Alana’s full name is Alana Leigh Chandler. If you google Alana Chandler and Alex Weeks you will find this article about the home they own together:(Source: http://igreenbuild.com/cd_3156.aspx)

– Here is Alana:

(Source: http://www.magazine.tcu.edu/)

– And here is Alex and Alana together:

– You can see Alana talk about her partner Alex and her business here: (Source: http://www.olivia.com/Connect/forums/3/106750/ShowThread.aspx)

I don’t know what fat goblin could possibly say in their defense, I hope they speak up. The thing is, Crystal posted every single bit of her whole experience of creating the company on the internet. It is all right there on twitter for anyone to see. For years I have watched as she came up with the recipe, when it became so freaking popular, when they started selling it at Bouldin Creek, to when they had that meeting with Whole Foods. They have worked so hard to make such an amazing product.

It is such an outrage that anyone might do this to them If it turns out that the story is true I hope that Whole Foods, Wheatsville, Food Fight, Vegan Essentials, and all the people who sell a product from such a shady company will have the integrity to stop carrying it. [Ed cause Food Fight already stopped carrying it!]

My first reaction was that I wanted to break every jar of Nacho Mama’s that I see.

Then I got worried that I would get kicked out of the co-op so instead I am just going to write some letters and buy some queso.

I hope that you will too.

If you want to support Chris and Crystal buy some queso for the holidays. They have a gift pack with adorable ornaments and queso cozies. And if you live in South Austin, like me they carry it at the Live Oak market now, thank goodness.

Update 12-21-2011 If you want to read the other side of the story, Nacho Mom writes a lot in the comments below. I am closed the comments now because I feel like everyone has had a chance to say what they want to and it is tough to moderate on vacation.

Greenling Delivery, a review

I have been reading Nanette’s blog, Vegan Greenling, about Greenling Delivery for awhile now with pure jealousy. Every week she gets a lovely box full of seasonal, locally grown, mostly organic produce and then she decides what to do with it while I go to nine different grocery stores trying to find every single stupid thing I need.

image courtesy of Nanette Labastida

Since I was pretty much bedridden for the last month due to an injury, I thought I finally had a good excuse to eschew all that excessive grocery shopping and order the service. As luck would have it, I also got a huge discount on the service courtesy of the wonderful folks at Greenling, I ended up setting up and then canceling my order several times and talked to a few people in customer service and they were really great.

The whole service is kind of amazing. Of course, you can pick out groceries yourself like locally grown Swiss chard and radishes but you can also get all sorts of regular grocery products like coffee blended here in Austin and chocolate too. Being a lazy lush I was particularly excited to see that they had a nice beer and wine selection that you could even filter by if it was vegan! Sadly, none of the wines offered were vegan and hopefully in the future they will pick some up like Vegan Vine.

The super cool part, though, is that you can also select ready made boxes. The local box, obviously, contains whatever farmers have a lot of at the moment. It is kind of like a CSA box, except since Greenling works with so many local farms you get more variety then any one farm. They also have a bunch of recipe kits including four different all vegan Engine 2 Diet themed boxes which is what I decided to try (after changing my mind 9000 times). Box Two had portobella fajita tacos, vegetable enchiladas, lentil soup, sweet potatoes with greens, and mac & not cheese so I decided it was the perfect box to order. 

I was stoked to see my green box filled with labeled ingredients. Everything was divided by the day you would make it and most items were pre-chopped. It also came with a little recipe booklet that even had pictures of how the final dish would turn out. You don’t have to do any measuring except sometime you use half of an item, like for my portabella fajitas I reserved half the can of black beans. 

The problem for me was that since they were keeping things soooo easy some of the flavor was sacrificed. I have never read the engine 2 book so I don’t know if this was the fault of the recipes or the if it was just the recipes they had for the greenling service. The directions were literally, “warm the beans in a pot” and that’s it! No spices or cooking techniques were added. For the fajitas you just saute the mushrooms and the onion in cooking spray, warm up the beans, and dump on the toppings so the tacos ended fairly plain.

I liked the next days greens with cashew sauce, roasted peppers and sweet potatoes better even though it was probably simpler. The cashew sauce was premade and the instructions were just to roast the potatoes, peppers and onions. The greens were boiled and then topped with the sauce. Since roasting brings out so much natural flavor and the sauce was pretty good I liked this meal a lot. My only problem was that the kale was cut into strips crosswise without removing the stem so the fibrous stalk was in every bite. I also learned that Dan likes the fibrous stalk! What a world.

The rest of the meals were all similar to these first two, and for me I would have had to doctor them a lot with herbs and spices to really enjoy them. I did love how colorful and fresh everything was. In all reality, though, I am a total foodie and used to spending at least an hour making dinner every night so my expectations might have been just too high for an engine 2 style menu. I guess I’ll never be plant strong. This box would be great for parents, engine 2 dieters, single people looking to eat healthy and easily, or anyone that didn’t want to spend time in the kitchen or money on eating out or buying prepackaged meals.

For me, the part that takes the most planning and the most wonderful convenience of this service was that you use every single bit of the groceries. How many times have I followed a recipe that used a tablespoon of coconut milk or handful of cilantro only to forget about the rest until it get disgusting in the back of the fridge and Dan and I argue about who should throw it out. I have tried many times to plan everything I am going to make for a week but I have never done such a great job as Greenling. I kept thinking, if only they used a better cookbook like Appetite for Reduction for the inspiration, it would be the most glorious service of all time and I would undoubtably become a regular customer. As it stands, I probably wouldn’t get a meal kit again but definitely the local box. With wine. And coffee. And olives…..

Working Austin favorites into your vegan meal plan

Today’s blog post comes from Carolyn from the blog content guild who wanted to share with you how to make restaurant dishes at home. I do love migas and I sure miss the version they used to have at Snackbar

Trying to find the quintessential Austin food is likely to start an argument for the ages. Your friends will insist the food truck phenomenon is the cat’s meow but you’re more partial to the cutting edge foodie culture championed by the master chefs of Austin. Either way, when it comes to breakfast everyone can agree that Austin has cornered the market on breakfast tacos and migas. As you well know, finding acceptable versions to fit into your vegan meal planisn’t going to be easy. We hear there are quick to-go options for the intrepid vegan who’s willing to traipse all over town, but wouldn’t it just be easier to make them?Mouthwatering migas

Migas is a dish from Spain and Portugal, although some people think it can be traced back even further to a type of African couscous. Traditionally, it was a dish for using leftover bread that wasn’t fit to eat in other dishes. In Texas we’ve changed it around a bit to include tortillas instead, along with scrambled eggs, onion, pepper, tomatoes and cheese. Obviously, the eggs and cheese aren’t going to work so we’re going to need some creativity. Fortunately, the food wizards who make soy products have made it easier for us.

Ingredients
– 1 14-ounce package soft tofu
– 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided
– 3 stale corn tortillas torn into strips
– 1 pinch of ground turmeric or to taste
– 2 jalapeños, diced
– 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile or to taste
– 4 scallions, trimmed and chopped
– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
– 2 tomatoes, chopped
– 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese
– 1 cup of your favorite salsa

Drain the tofu in a colander. Add the teaspoon of oil to a skillet and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the tortilla strips and fry until golden, then remove and set aside. Add the rest of the oil to the pan and crumble the tofu into the pan along with the jalapeños, chipotle, turmeric, salt and scallions. Cook the mixture until the water has evaporated and the tofu has the consistency of scrambled eggs, about five minutes. Add in the tortilla strips, tomatoes and vegan cheese and you’re ready to go! Add some of your favorite salsa if you want, or eat it as is. You can also eat the mixture in tortillas, but that’s a lot like our next option.

Tremendous tacos

Tacos are the perfect breakfast food. Tasty as any pancakes and a trillion times more portable, you can’t go wrong with this Austin favorite. Your quest for vegan breakfast tacos could be a little bit easier as places like Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse and Whole Foods have vegan options. That said, don’t you think it’s time to spread your culinary wings? Who knows, you could be the next food truck rock star if you create a bunch of tasty recipes to share with the world. Take inspiration from the migas recipe to create your own delectable version of Austin’s favorite breakfast food.