Why I Love Austin Weather

Sunday it was 80 degrees. We spent all day working on our garden in the sun.

Today it snowed!!

Gooseberry Farm – Natural Building Internship

Here is an internship opportunity my friend sent me. It sounds cool, so I figured I’d post her description here:

This is a flexible summer internship position at an ecovillage in Alabama called Gooseberry Farm. Basically it would entail living in a tent, helping in the vegetarian kitchen, garden, and natural building projects, and then swimming in ponds, running in fields, and leading a generally idyllic hippie life for a short period of the summer–when will one get this chance again?

http://mazzo-strawbale.blogspot.com/2010/01/natural-building-internship.html

Tour D’ Vegan Pictures

I’m totally lame. Didn’t get enough sleep Friday night, got discouraged by the gloomy weather, and didn’t make it to the Tour ‘D Vegan! Bummer.

But I found a few pictures of the event here. Looks like it was a lot of fun.

Hopefully they’ll do something similar again (hint, hint). Otherwise I’ll just have to go my own vegan bike tour.

Tour D’ Vegan

The Austin chapter of Organic Athlete is hosting the Tour D’Vegan this Saturday!

It’ll be a long, leisurely bike ride/vegan food tour with frequent stops at vegan-friendly eateries around town.

The weather looks like it’ll be great, so I definitely plan to be there. You should too.

Here’s a summary of the event:

http://www.veganaustin.org/event.php

And here’s a map of the route:
http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/tx/austin/758126634594794889

Also…in finding links for this event, I found a great site that lists other bike-related events in Austin.

http://austinontwowheels.org

The Year In Meat – 2009

I think this is an article everyone should read. This guy did a ton of research!

http://www.vegan.com/articles/yim/the-year-in-meat-2009/

Counter Culture Vegan Trailer

Hello everyone.  I’m settled back in Austin and ready to write about food again.

And to recover from my year-long hiatus from this blog, I’m going to write about Counter Culture, a vegan and raw food trailer that recently sprung up on North Loop!

Miguel and I had talked about starting a vegan trailer on that street, but I ended up leaving town for a year instead. I guess it turned out to be a good idea afterall.  And based on the reviews the place has been getting, it seems to be pretty popular with the folks in the area.

The cool thing about Counter Culture is that it has drawn a steady crowd of regulars who aren’t even vegan at all. Many of them may not have rushed over to try it had there been other options nearby. But since there’s practically nowhere else to eat a quick lunch in the area (especially food that’s healthy), the vegan cart has gotten quite a bit of attention from carnivores. AND since it’s just yummy food, these people (vegan or non vegan) continue to come back. I think that’s exciting! To all those people who had their doubts whether or not a vegan cart could be successful in Austin, this is encouraging news that it can.

Anyway, I was super excited to try the place, so Miguel and I headed over to have a picnic lunch. We each ordered a different sandwich so we could try two different ones.

I ordered the Jackfruit BBQ.

Miguel got the Philly Seitan

Not sure why Miguel has a weird expression on his face in this photo, because we both really liked the food.

Luckily I work right down the street from this place, so I’m sure I’ll get a chance to try everything on the menu soon. My coworkers walk down to Counter Culture pretty regularly and they can all vouch for the trailer’s cleanliness, Sue’s friendliness, and the food’s deliciousness. Unfortunately it’s only open Thursday – Sunday…and those last few days in the work week are usually when I end up bringing my lunch. Hopefully she’ll extend her hours sometime in the near future.

But basically…I’m pretty thrilled to see a vegan food trailer in my neighborhood. And if nonvegans are flocking to this place (and pleased with their experience), they’ll probably be more apt to try other vegan food as well.

I forsee a gradual (but exciting) transformation within the greater Austin community. There’s no doubt that places like Counter Culture are helping to make the general Austin population more vegan/vegetarian friendly.

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Away for a Year

Hey all.

As much as I love writing about Austin, I will be away from Austin for a year (and so will be taking a year long hiatus from this blog).

I will still be writing, but I’ll be devoting my energy to my travel blog. There are also sections on my new site dedicated to vegan travel. I’ll be adding info to them as I go along, so please check them out if you’re interested:

CircleOurEarth.com

Thanks for reading!

-Cristen

Vegan Chicken Fried Steak

I depart for my RTW trip on Tuesday and I decided to have one last dinner gathering before I leave. The theme? Country dinner!!

Miguel made biscuits and gravy.

Kasia made rosemary mashed potatoes.

And we had green beans, broccoli, grilled mushroom and onions, lemonade and orange juice.

I’ve been wanting to make vegan chicken fried steaks forever, so I finally got around to doing it. I’m not very good at frying things, so I was a little worried they wouldn’t turn very well. But…they turned out great!

The seitan recipe I usually use is from the cookbook Vegan with a Vengeance. It’s a really good recipe, but I decided to compare a few other seitan recipes and combine parts I liked from each. Here are some other recipes I looked at:

Country-Fried Seitan Steaks–Bengarland.com

Gluten Steaks–EllensKitchen.com

The end result basically went something like this:

Vegan Seitan Chicken Steak Recipe

  • 4 cups vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (+ some extra for fun!)
  • 4 Tb flour
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 cup Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • flavoring (onion powder, Spike seasoning, fresh minced garlic, tomato paste, Marmite, fresh chopped parsley)

1. Combine dry ingredients.

2. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients.

3. Mix the wet and dry ingredients in a large bowl and knead the dough until it becomes spongy and elastic.

4. Pull small chunks off the dough and try your best to stretch, smush, and smash them into small flat patties. The texture is pretty odd and stretchy, so this is a difficult task to do. They kinda look like lumpy cookies – not very appetizing looking, but neither is raw chicken.

5. Let the patties sit for a few minutes while you prepare the broth (see vegetable broth idea below).

Vegan Vegetable Broth

I made a quick vegetable broth from things I had at the house: fresh oregano, fresh parley, tomato paste, molasses, dried sage, Marmite, cayenne pepper, asfoetida powder (kinda tastes like onion and garlic powder mixed together). I added all these things to a large pot of water. You could really add all kinds of things to the broth…this is just what I had.

6. Place seitan pieces in the broth, bring the broth to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and gently simmer for about 90 minutes.

*The seitan recipes I’ve read say that the seitan should be simmered in the broth rather than boiled because that will prevent it from puffing up so much. They were probably right about that – my seitan patties tripled in size once they were boiled. This wasn’t a problem…they were just VERY large (which actually helped stick to the country theme of serving large portions of meat at a meal). Next time I make the steaks though, I’ll pay attention to that tip and try simmering them in hopes that it will help keep the seitan steaks thinner.

7. Remove seitan patties from the broth and let them sit out to cool off. At this point, you can do all kinds of things with your seitan chicken creation (like make vegan meatballs, vegan seitan tacos, or many other things). I used it to make chicken fried steak. Below, I’ll outline more or less how I did it.

Vegan Chicken Fried Steak Recipe

1. So now you’ve made your seitan chicken patties (recipes above). As they’re cooling off, prepare three bowls:

  • 1 bowl with flour (I used besan flour. Since it’s made from chickpeas, it has a more beany taste that I like a lot. But, you can probably use any type of flour you want).
  • 1 bowl with Erner G egg replacer (prepare equivalent of 4-6 eggs), a few cups of soy milk, and a few squirts of Bragg’s. Stir the mixture with a fork and let it get thick and bubbly.
  • 1 bowl with crushed up crackers and other spices (I used onion powder, chopped parsley, chili powder, salt, nutritional yeast, and montreal steak seasoning).

2. Coat each chicken patty in the flour first, then the egg/soy milk mixture, then the cracker mixture. Really pack on the cracker crumbs so it has a nice thick coating.

3. Pour about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a pan. Let the oil get really hot before adding the patties. Once it’s hot, add the patties and cook each side until browned and crispy.

3. Yum. Now you’ll have quite a few large seitan chicken steaks. Invite a lot of friends to eat it with you because you probably won’t want to eat them all yourself.

So now…what do you do with all the leftovers?

The chicken fried steak was even better the next day – it became denser and more steaklike on the inside. We sliced it into thin strips, heated them in a pan with some gravy, added some leftover mashed potatoes, and made breakfast tacos!

Vegan Biscuits and Gravy

Miguel makes delicious vegan biscuits and gravy.

The vegan biscuit recipe that he used is from eHow. It’s important to remember that the margarine should be very cold when it’s combined with the dry ingredients (salt, baking powder, flour). The colder the margarine, the flakier the biscuits. For this reason, it’s best to combine the ingredients with a fork so the warmth of your hands doesn’t mess up the consistency. After combining the margarine, you can add the milk (either soy milk or rice milk is fine). Knead it with your hands, roll it out flat, use the top of a can to cut the biscuits, place them on a cookie sheet (ungreased), stick them in the oven…and then you’re done. They should be ready in 10 – 15 minutes. Check them regularly so they don’t burn on the bottom.

Here is more or less the vegan gravy recipe:

1. Start with a few tablespoons of vegan margarine.

2. Add garlic, onions, peppers, mushrooms (in that order).

3. Add flour to turn into paste (it is important that you add the flour before the liquid if you want a smooth gravy. If you do it the other way around, the flour will make big goey chunks that are very difficult to break down).

4. Add soymilk, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, and spices (some ideas are coriander, paprika, or sage).

80s Estonian Meat Commercial

Wierd!!