I can't resist picking up specialty food items when I travel and the Texas Veggie Fair was no exception. We did not go to the PlantFusion booth, but Christy Morgan looked great selling protein powder to the crowd. When I went by the Vegan Cuts booth, I had hoped to meet the guy that runs Vegan Houston, but he wasn't on shift yet. There was a kombucha booth that seemed very popular, but I generally don't like tea or bitter flavors, so I passed that booth up.
As usual, there are plenty of food samples available at the Texas Veggie Fair. You could get samples of Teese cheese and Dandie's marshmallows, but I didn't photograph those. We arrived early to make sure we got the free bag at the gate. It had a surprising number of free samples in the bag! We also tried the quesadilla samples at the Whole Foods booth, some Asian entrees from Tasty Bite, and a Cedar's hummus to-go container (which we ate later in the week).
Free bag of goodies!
Whole Foods booth - quesadillas
Tasty Bite - microwaveable Asian entrees
Cedar's Hummus - to-go container with gluten-free corn chips
At the Texas Veggie Fair, we tried several entrees. I love hearing the dude proclaim that he likes vegan items as much as the non-vegan ones. He said he doesn't miss eating meat at all, but he does still eat some dairy (yogurt and cheese, but not milk for drinking) when I'm not with him. When we saw people walking around with pizza, we knew we wanted to try it! I stuck with the basic veggie toppings, but the dude picked the vegan alfredo pizza with mushrooms and spinach. He really enjoyed the pizza, which is great since dairy cheese on pizza is sooo engrained in people. We also tried the deep-fried corn dogs, which surprisingly did not run out. The booth had a zillion packages of veggie dogs from a variety of brands, so they were working hard to keep turning out hot food to the masses. I loved the corn dog, even though I never would have eaten a corn dog as an omni. I was such a picky eater back then! Of course, we had to stop by the Spiral booth where we chose the fried zucchini po'boy because it was warm out. We skipped the gumbo but it would have been perfect at the start of the day when it was a little cooler.
The dude and I attended the Texas Veggie Fair! I wanted to go last year, but didn't really know anyone to go with and it's a looong drive to Dallas. I was pumped to go this year! I'll share the photos in a few posts so it's manageable. This post will focus on sweet treats. It's no secret that I have a wicked sweet tooth, but I really enjoyed being able to split these things with the dude. We both got to try the food without feeling sick by the end of the day. I looove that he's willing to share food and let me eat off his plate! ;)
Sorry for the radio silence! Things have been so busy this month, I've barely had time to sit down in front of my computer, much less write a blog post. One of my many recent adventures was attending the Texas Veggie Fair in Dallas, TX. The dude and I travelled up to Dallas the night before the fest, so that we could eat at Spiral Diner. The food was incredible! While we were sitting at our table, we saw two other people from Houston's VSOP at the restaurant! We knew a few of our friends were planning to go, but it was surprise running into more VSOP folks. We ordered the chips with dip sampler, which came with salsa, guac, and cashew queso. The queso was the best and it was warm, perfect for us since it was chilly out that evening. The dude ordered the El Paso burger with the classic patty and I ordered the seitan philly cheesesteak sandwich. We split the burger and sandwich into halves and each had a half for our meal. He ordered the potato salad as the side, which had all the flavors of potato salad in mashed potato form, and I ordered the pasta salad, which seemed to have an avocado-based dressing instead of vegan mayo. We barely touched our sides since we ate so many chips. We wanted to try the pumpkin cheesecake i-scream made in house, but that seasonal flavor was out. We picked the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream instead. I heard that Spiral makes a milkshake with red velvet cake blended in, but that was just a special item in the past. I really wanted to order that, but I couldn't. Oh well, the cookie dough ice cream was still delicious. Spiral also serves breakfast on Sunday mornings starting at 9. We went for breakfast before the fest, because we knew we weren't going to make it until 11 without a bite to eat. The hotel breakfast didn't look very vegan-friendly, and the vegetarian dude didn't want to eat in front of me without me having something to eat. (He almost always eats vegan with me.) We arrived about 15 minutes before Spiral opened, because I was expecting a long line of out-of-towners. Nope, it was just us and one other person waiting. The dude ordered the biscuits and gravy with sausage patties, but he seemed surprised by the white gravy. I ordered the pancake shortstack, thinking they'd be little pancakes like I make at home. They were as big as the plate! We had tofu scramble and hashbrowns too. We felt so bad not finishing our food, but we also didn't want to be too stuffed for the fest. If we ever return to Dallas, we know we should order a pancake or two and another breakfast entree to split between us. I would HIGHLY recommend going to Spiral if you're in Dallas!
A quick meal from things lurking in the fridge - kale, broccoli, and tofu with curry sauce made from that damn coconut milk, red curry paste, and almond butter served over basmati rice. I pulled the sauce recipe from Dreena Burton's website. I added a bunch of sriracha for some heat. I normally don't mix coconut milk and nut butter, but it was tasty. I am not a low fat vegan, what can I say? ;)
This is my 505th post. I didn't even realize I passed 500. Crazy. I would say this cake is worthy of this milestone. I made a vegan tres leche cake for potluck this past weekend. I decided against trying to the layer the soaked cakes, so I just served the two cakes separately. This cake was high-anxiety at the end, but thankfully I didn't scare off my partner with my mild anxiety attack. I made two 9" sponge cakes and left them to cool, no problems there. I invited him over to hang out and then I made the caramel, which had a few crystals forming on the side of the saucepan but was generally OK. Once the caramel cooled some, I poured some on the cakes to soak in. Then, I went to make the coconut cream. I had Googled coconut whipped cream in the grocery store to pick a brand recommended by multiple, reliable blogs. The brand I picked - Native Forest - did not separate in my fridge for whatever reason, even though I had put it in the fridge the night before so it would have plenty of time to separate. I bought a can of my usual generic brand (just coconut milk and water, no chemicals or gums) and left it on the countertop. I had tried to put the Native Forest cans into the freezer after opening them. I could see a little coconut fat collecting at the rim after 20 minutes or so. I decided to just open the room temperature can of my usual brand and skim off the tiny bit of fat that separates in that can. I was able to whip it with some powdered sugar and vanilla powder to get a thin layer of cream for my two cakes. After putting this thin layer of coconut cream on top, I added more caramel. NOM NOM NOM. I was a little frustrated and anxious that the cakes would be ruined without the cream, that he'd drop them if he carried them to the car, that the box would tip over in the car, etc. Ultimately, the cakes went over really well and my little anxiety attack was unnecessary (typical). We also brought homemade tamales to the potluck. The filling had slow-cooked black beans, homemade taco seasoning, green bell pepper, de-seeded red jalapeno, onion, and garlic.
I bought this jar of Food for Lovers Queso in Austin, but just discovered that it's sold at my local Whole Foods here in Houston. It's on the bottom shelf of the salsa section. How sad. No love for the vegan queso. I made some nacho toppings using black beans left from the brownies (yeah, this was a while ago). I sauteed the veggies - multiple colors of peppers, onion, and garlic - and added black beans seasoned with homemade taco seasoning and green onions. I served this with a big dollop of queso heated in the microwave and some avocado cubes in one bowl and a bunch of tortilla chips in a second bowl. I stirred the queso into everything after the photo, then scooped up some food with the chips. Nom nom nom.
It is no secret that I love spicy food. I saw Isa's chipotle mac recipe and decided that I had to try it. I didn't think a big bowl of mac would make a complete meal, so I thought some tofu and broccoli would round out the meal. Whenever I buy a can of chipotle peppers in adobo, I blend up the peppers with the canned sauce and aliquot 1 Tbs into ice cube trays. I freeze the cubes and then use one per pepper listed in a recipe. This is usually fine. Isa's recipe says to remove the seeds from the peppers, but I couldn't do this. My mac was much spicier than the recipe intended, but I'm OK with that. I made some chipotle BBQ sauce to go with my tofu and left it chunky. I think it would have been better blended up, but the taste was good as is. I loved this spicy meal! :)
This is another recipe that I made before MoFo started. This stew used mirlitons, also known as chayote squash. I've seen these little green things at the Fiesta market many times before, but I had no idea how to cook them. One day I decided to just go for it and search for recipes using them. I found this stew recipe and decided to give it a try. It was OK. I didn't use the dulse. I added a bunch of hot sauce. Probably wouldn't make this again, but I'm proud of myself for trying something new. The mirlitons had a texture like a firm pear, but didn't have a strong flavor.
I have been eyeing this Dreena Burton recipe for a while. I found the Lentil No-Fu Loaf recipe here. I made this before MoFo started, so I'm glad to finally get it posted on the blog. I loved it and thought it was quite good as leftovers. This could go on the holiday menu this year since it's pretty simple but flavorful. I mixed in some celery and green bell pepper that was languishing in the fridge. It would be great with mashed potatoes and some green veggies, but I had it with fries and frozen broccoli.
This weekend, I went to Loving Hut with VSOP for the final event of Texas Go Vegan Week. The people I met at the Pepper Tree event were there and we seemed to really hit if off. Yay vegan friends! I ordered the sweet and sour divine, but my partner ordered a curry dish. I can't believe how late we stayed at the restaurant! Totally missed the kickball kegger, but I'm actually OK with that. Someone called my partner to ask where people were, so I don't think the party had great attendance. That's what you get for hosting the party at a bar on Washington Street instead of in Midtown, where many people in the league live. After dinner with friends on Saturday, we watched a few more episodes of Breaking Bad. We were close to the end of what's available on Netflix, so we decided to enjoy BB instead of seeing who was left at the party. On Sunday afternoon, we used my cable account info to stream the remaining BB episodes and watch them on the tv. I can't believe how it ended. I'm glad that it was so final, but I'm a little bummed that it's over. I brought over Italian tofu (made with broth instead of wine) and pesto for sandwiches using recipes from Vegan with a Vengeance. We served the tofu on crusty bread with pesto and spinach, then had pretzels and watermelon slices on the side. Nom nom nom. Didn't get photos of the sandwiches, so I'll just share my Loving Hut photos.
I really wanted to go to Sunshine's Deli during MoFo, but it didn't happen. After yesterday's Elephantopia march, I went to Sunshine's with some friends. The spicy black bean burger and nachos came highly recommended, so I ordered both. The nachos were the star! The red salsa is actually spicy and the cheese sauce is tasty, even though it's a weird shade of yellow. One of my friends ordered that too, but the other chose to get three salads from the salad case to go with his burger. I tried the almond pate. It tasted like there was some lemon juice in there, which was a surprise since it visually looks like tuna salad. I inhaled my cookies from E-dub-a-licious Treats. They were a little pricey, but they were good. From the outside, I would have never guessed there would be delicious nachos inside, but I will definitely go back for the nachos!
I played indoor soccer tonight with my team. It's a hard sport, so much running since the game is shorter than outdoor soocer. I play about a quarter of our games, but I almost had a chance to score tonight. The keeper dove for the ball and I couldn't get it into the goal. 4th attempt at a goal and still nothing. *sigh* I've been working late a lot this week and today was no exception. After rushing from work to soccer, I didn't feel like cooking when I got home from soccer. I stopped at Fiesta and picked up some pre-made vegan goodies from Banyan Foods, a locally owned soy foods company. A lady at VSOP has recommended Banyan to me several times, so I finally decided to try it. I noticed that they don't use any preservatives or MSG - impressive! I bought the chipotle tofu "egg" rolls and the tofu fried rice. Banyan clearly labels everything with a giant VEGAN word, so the cashier asked me about it. I got to tell her that vegans abstain from all animal products and it's the greatest thing ever. I got home and put a few rolls in the oven to cook while I was in the shower. I microwaved the fried rice. Everything was pretty good. I'm sure this will become a regular option for lazy days, since it's two servings of food for the same cost as one meal at Chipotle. I should also note that I've seen Banyan products at Whole Foods in town too.
Now that we're a few days into October, I can share some Oktoberfest recipes! I was invited to an Oktoberfest themed party last weekend by some kickball friends. They have a lovely backyard, it reminds me of a Target commercial. Since I knew they were not going to plan ahead to feed a vegan, I woke up early Saturday morning and started cooking. I made the German chocolate cake from Chloe's Vegan Desserts, making the frosting and then the cakes. While they were cooling, I started the dough for German-style pretzels using this Oh, LadyCakes recipe. The dough was super sticky, even with 4.5 cups of flour and lots of flour on the table when rolling them out. It had rained that morning, so I think it was too humid in my apartment for dough. The recipe calls for dipping the pretzels into boiling soda water, which is how the pretzels get their color and crunchy crust. I tried 3 different ways to get my sticky pretzels into the water, but they all resulted in blobs. I decided to take some of the boiling soda water into a bowl and brush it on the tops of the remaining pretzels before baking them. They did turn brown on top, but in spots instead of uniformly, and my holes baked closed. They were SO delicious fresh out of the oven. I seriously considered not bringing them to the party. I saved a few for the party to show my non-vegan friends that every food possible can be veganized (even though most bagged pretzels and Super Pretzels are already vegan). While the dough was in the first rise, I made warm German potato salad. I found a recipe in the Google Books preview feature in 30 Minute Vegan's Taste of Europe. The recipe calls for tempeh bacon, but I decided to use Upton's Natural new seitan bacon. I had tried the bacon at Austin VegFest, so I knew it would taste fine. I put all the cooked ingredients together and stored them in the fridge, but chose to dress the dish at the party so the potatoes would not get soggy. I covered the big bowl with my cover from Hello Kiddo Handmade, which is usually a good conversation starter. I noticed at the end of the night that the potato salad and the cake were almost gone, maybe one serving of each! There was half of a pretzel left too. In order to save my sanity after a full morning in the kitchen, I brought Tofurky beer brats for the grill. I served my brat on a wheat bun with a little stone-ground mustard and sauerkraut. I didn't load up on mustard and sauerkraut because I'm slowly learning to like bitter flavors. I wish I had added more sauerkraut though. Now go celebrate your own Vegan Oktoberfest with these recipes or attend the real deal with new vegan options being served!
The first week of October is Texas Go Vegan Week, which is sponsored by Vegan Society of PEACE. I love VSOP for being an abolitionist vegan organization and for providing me with the opportunity to make so many new friends. I have met half of my friends through VSOP and I continue to introduce myself to newcomers of the under 35 demographic. I met 4 more people at the Pepper Tree dinner last night and got their email addresses. I've already got a reply from one of the people! Pepper Tree discounted their ALL VEGAN Chinese buffet for the kick-off event of Texas Go Vegan Week. I've said it's a little bland in the past, but there was definitely more flavor this time. Rich flavors like tomatoes in the little dumplings sauce, gravy with tofu and potato cubes, and obviously soy sauce. I could have used a little squirt of sriracha, but I didn't have a clean mini container to bring in my purse. We also played vegan trivia and I won. I had 12 points and the second place person had 6 or 8. I knew a few more answers but wasn't the first person to raise my hand. I strategized and kept my hand near my chest, instead of lowering it to the table, between questions so that I could very quickly raise my hand for the next question. I knew a lot of the answers from the internet, but I definitely took a shot in the dark on the year Tofurky roast was released and actually got it right!! It's 1995. For my prize, the last one available was a gift certificate to the restaurant, which was exactly what I wanted. Pepper Tree is on the same block as the movie theater, so I wanted the gift certificate for a dinner and movie date night. I didn't have to steal anyone's prize! I'm so proud of my partner for getting a point for knowing Sinfull Bakery makes giant cinnamon rolls and he had the right answer for another question, but didn't get his hand up fast enough. We got to sit with some friends, including one who always gets a second plate like me, and overall it was a great night. :)
I can't believe I managed to finish my unofficial MoFo theme of dining out in Houston! I had some posts in the queue before the month started, which ended up being super helpful when things in my personal life got chaotic. I'll talk more about that in a future post, I'm still processing that. October 1st marks the start of Texas Go Vegan Week, so I'll be dining out even more. I'm definitely ready to get back into my kitchen. I have several photos of home-cooked meals to share, so I'll post them soon! I still can't believe that I didn't make it to Sunshine's Natural Deli (a mostly raw vegan place over by UH), Pine Forest Garden (a mostly vegan place in Chinatown), Cafe TH (a Vietnamese place open for lunch), or Blue Nile Ethiopian. I'll have to try those places in the future because I've heard good reviews for each one. Some other local favorites include Green Seed Vegan on the border of the Third Ward and Museum District, Doshi House in the Third Ward, Quan Yin in Chinatown, and Pat Greer's booth at the farmers' market. I am still on the fence about trying the new Radical Eats menu since their new location is much more convenient. I've been to those places before, so I wasn't too upset about not getting to them during MoFo.
I have this leftover photo from MoFo to share today. It's from the Whole Foods hot bar. Usually the hot bar at Whole Foods on Kirby is rather boring for vegans. Maybe that's just my luck. It's mostly steamed veggies, plain beans, and brown rice. In Florida, I could get TVP taco casserole and channa masala regularly. I stopped by the store to grab something else and saw this chickpea and quinoa dish on the hot bar. I asked the people working if it was vegan since it wasn't labeled, which is pretty rare at Whole Foods. It was vegan and it looked damn good. It had a lot of black pepper, but I didn't mind that. I ate this before heading out for a day with friends and it kept me fueled. I did save the chocolate cake for the evening. I'll have to stop hating on the hot bar and check it out more often.