Wordless Wednesday: See-Food Diet

Veggie Today – Calamari

The Beer Plant – Crab Cakes

Secret Garden – Spicy Shroom Summer Rolls

Secret Garden – Ramen Hype

Sanctuary Bistro – King Oyster Scallops

Sweetgrass (CLOSED) – Pottage

Firehouse Favorite

When I first met Paul five years ago, I knew right away that he was different from my usual photography client. His passion was unmistakable, almost tangible, paired with an infectious enthusiasm and warmth that could win friends in an instant. It wasn’t just a granola business he envisioned, but a stronger, healthier community. Such lofty goals never seemed out of reach with a clear vision and determination to make it possible.

Paul’s Firehouse Granola has been a labor of love from day one, born from the need to feed fellow firefighters while spending long hours on duty. Never knowing when they’d need to refuel, Paul’s carefully balanced formula was a runaway hit. This convenient, delicious snack was designed to provide quick energy to sustain them for the long haul, but demand quickly spread beyond the station. It’s easy to see why, just at a glance.

No other granola on grocery store shelves packs in the same quality and variety of whole nuts, seeds, unsweetened dried fruits, and whole grains. The best way to honor such superlative ingredients is to let them shine, unimpeded by excessive sugar or heavy spices. Paul’s Firehouse Granola is so spectacular because Paul doesn’t doesn’t cut any corners or take any shortcuts, valuing flavor just as much as nutrition. That means you’ll find rich dark chocolate chunks cozied up right next to toasted nuts and thick-cut, toasted oats.

As if that emphasis on premium ingredients wasn’t enough to feel good about, your purchase helps those in need, too. Paul’s Firehouse Granola proudly supports The San Jose Firefighters Burn Foundation and The Natalia Salcido Legacy Fund.

Now, after a lifetime of dreaming, years of hard work, and countless hours in the kitchen, Paul’s Firehouse Granola is finally available for online purchase! I’m proud to say I played any role in shaping the this voice for this bold new brand, and want to shout from the rooftops about the news. Instead, I thought it might be more effective to share a taste of this incredible blend with you. THREE lucky readers will get the gift of granola shipped straight to their door! If you’d like to win a beautiful glass jar full of Paul’s Firehouse Granola, leave me a comment below about your favorite way to eat granola. Do you sprinkle it over yogurt, mix it into muffins, or just eat it straight?

If you’d like some fresh ideas, make sure you check out the recipes I developed, including waffles, pancakes, and so much more.

Don’t forget to log your entry below, and find additional ways to enter, too!

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Rice and Shine

Growing up in the age of internet anxiety, there was an intense, irrational fear of the unknown lurking in the depths of the Worldwide Web. I vividly remember stern warnings from teachers when we first climbed into chairs in the computer lab, the information superhighway at our fingertips. We were coached from day one to guard our privacy ferociously; never give out your real name, your phone number or, god forbid, you address, under threat of death or torture.

Now here we are in 2021, meeting up with strangers and buying vegan sushi off of Instagram. What a wild trip it’s been.

Despite that sketchy introduction, Rice Above is a fledgling food purveyor with low-key sales tactics but high-quality rolls. The moment I laid eyes on those brilliantly colored, boldly creative maki, I was hooked. Menus drop at random, and the only way to get in on the action is to watch @riceaboveATX on Instagram. Forget about the standard fusion fare; these are more than mere vegetable rolls. Meatless orange chicken, or watermelon tuna with cream cheese, or fish-free eel are just the beginning. As soon as I saw my opening, I had to place an order, of course, but I also had to know more. Luckily, times have changed since my earliest online interactions, and everything is easily accessible with just a few clicks of the mouse.

I reached out to chef Shane Michael, the man behind the business, to get the inside scoop on above board but below the radar sushi deals.

Hannah Kaminsky: Why/how did you get started in the first place?

Shane Michael: Well, when covid became a scary reality, I took a step back and left work to stay home and keep my family as safe and isolated as possible. When it first really hit us all… everyone was kind of at a loss for how to navigate the new territory. So many businesses closed and options for vegan food slowly began to dwindle. In the beginning, MANY of the normal spots here were closed. So, I really wanted to put an option out there for anyone stuck at home. I did contact-free delivery to help make it easier for anyone that was home bound and hungry. Since then, it’s been an up and up.

HK: Before launching Rice Above, did you have a background with sushi, or cooking in general?

SM: So, the only sushi background I had was just in making it as a hobby to eat at home. I started out rough haha then slowly caught the hang of it. Then really started branching out with what was possible or fun to do.

HK: What inspires the flavors for your rolls?

SM: I really wanted to focus on what wasn’t being represented for vegans, here. I don’t care about an avocado roll.. I don’t care about an AAC roll. These have always felt like cop out rolls on regular sushi menus meant to have a veg option. I wanted to make sushi that didn’t feel like someone was settling for a vegan option. What rolls can be veganized? Then, I just thought of what flavors go well with other flavor profiles. Blueberry + habanero, mango + spam, apples + oranges. It’s been most fun trying to match flavors that aren’t typically an option.

Zero Roll – Gluten Free Sweet Teriyaki Chick’n, Sautéed Cashews, VVhite Sauce, Crumbled Cashews, Eel Drizzle

HK: Is this your side hustle or full-time gig? What else do you do when you’re not rolling?

SM: For the majority of covid it has kept us afloat. But, ultimately, it is a side gig until I can really push forward and make it full time. At the moment I also work at a vegan food truck, down south. RVK!

HK: Does anyone else help you in the kitchen, or are you rolling solo?

SM: It really has just been me. I have had help with deliveries when needed. But, even that is something I’d like to figure out a permanent process for. It’s fun but it’s also a lot of work. It has to be a labor of love haha otherwise I’d lose my mind trying to keep up.

HK: What has been your biggest challenge thus far?

SM: I’d have to say… trying to organize the entire process. Keeping up with demand. Keeping options rotating to hold interest. Some weeks are absolutely insane. Prepping the right amount to fulfill all the rolls that are pre-ordered. Every week is just so different with how many customers are ordering however many rolls.

ShEELa RollAvocado, Cucumber, Wrapped in Vegan Glazed Unagi, VVhite Sauce, Eel Drizzle

HK: Have you faced any unique issues you weren’t expecting, in regards to operating in the middle of a pandemic?

SM: The pandemic propelled it. And Austin is incredible with its support of local vegan business. Our community is unlike any other. I think the pandemic actually forced a simpler process. No contact. So pickups are contact-free. Deliveries are on the door step. Masks. Masks. Masks.

HK: Any plans to expand? Regular pop-ups, food truck, brick and mortar, or something else?

SM: The ultimate goal is to have a food truck location. That’s on the agenda for next year. Fingers crossed. Until then… consistent weekly drops. Pop ups. And hopefully some branching out to other cities in Texas.

Appels & Oranjes Roll – Gluten Free Orange Chick’n, Pickled Carrot, Pickled Honeycrisp Apple, Fresh Orange Segments, Homemade Orange Sauce, Sesame Seeds

HK: How can people best support you right now? Aside from ordering, of course.

SM: Oh man. Any advice on this kind of stuff would be greatly appreciated. Something I think that helps massively and is often overlooked… is sharing on social media. The more photos posted in stories or on Facebook always brings more followers… which always brings more orders. It may not seem like something so simple could be so beneficial, but it’s one of the biggest helps for boosting the radar.

Also, some shout-outs to the best teammates in our local vegan community.

@vegmexnissi
@austinkindcakes
@lacalakabakery
@vegans_r_sexy cheese
@zucchinikillbakery
@veggcatering
@funky_mello
@revolutionvegankitchen
@bignonnas
@rebel.cheese
@sweetritual
and of course @bittersweet__

User Friendly

Meet your new best friend: The Friendly Vegan Cookbook! No, that’s not a typo, despite how ubiquitous the term “vegan-friendly” has become in common parlance. Turning the phrase around makes it an all-encompassing embrace of the concept, rather than the outlying exception. Toni Okamoto and Michelle Cehn, two of my favorite people, have teamed up to create over 100 recipes that will serve you well, quite literally, from daybreak to sundown.

For the reluctant cook, the flexitarian, or the hungry health enthusiast, this one’s for you. Carefully curated with nostalgic fare like stuffed shells, pizza, and chickenless noodle soup, these glossy pages bring a taste of comfort to life in stunning full color, and flavor. It certainly helps that Michelle herself is an accomplished photographer, capturing lustrous still life scenes vibrant enough to warrant framing.

Naturally, I’m drawn to the dessert section of any cookbook first. Sweet and simple, the Fudge on page 204 is an easy win. You’ve gotta love a decadent homemade treat that you can make in minutes with seven ingredients (or only six, not counting the salt.) Even though my pantry was ill-prepared for such spur of the moment inspiration, I had just enough to pull off this small miracle. Ideal for a quick craving, unexpected guests, or holiday gifts, it’s hard to imagine anyone turning down these slow-melting nutty, chocolaty morsels.

Turning to more hearty meal options, the Mac ‘n’ Cheese on page 63 was calling to me from the moment we met. No packaged vegan cheese need apply to make this creamy, gooey goodness. I took some liberties to simplify mine, skipping the baking dish and extra vegetables to make a stove-top style, blue box dupe. Nutritional yeast, AKA vegan catnip, and a touch of soy sauce takes this one to boldly savory new heights.

Another reason to love this collection so much is that it truly represents a wide swath of the vegan community itself. Tapping other lauded cookbook authors for contributions, Stephanie’s Deviled Potatoes on page 141 comes from none other than Stephanie Dreyer. Plant-based meal planning expert and the founder of Batch Cooking Club, this unstoppable mother of three knows a thing or two about making foolproof recipes on the fly. Presented as finger food that’s party-ready, I’d argue these tender little potato bites are also ideal everyday snacks or sides. Protein-rich cannellini beans make the filling both balanced and substantial, brightened with the bite of mustard and black pepper.

Whether you’re a friendly vegan or still just vegan-friendly, you can’t go wrong with The Friendly Vegan Cookbook. If you don’t take my word for it, try it yourself: Enter your details in the form below for a chance to win a copy of your own! Tell me in the comment section about your go-to best friend in the kitchen. Is it a certain seasoning, special equipment, or an actual human helper? There are no wrong answers, as long as you respond in the first place!

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Not Your Average Joe

Of all the foods that Americans try to claim as their own, the Sloppy Joe may be one of the few that an actually trace their roots back to the good old U.S. of A. First referenced in the 1930’s and attributed to a cook only credited as “Joe,” it has humble beginnings befitting of original description of “loose meat sandwiches.” Doesn’t that just sound finger-licking good?

Many similar dishes exist abroad, owing largely to the simplicity of the concept, but few would recognize the childhood staple outside of these United States. However, the idea is still as foreign to me as tikka masala. I certainly enjoy it and appreciate its unique nuances, but can’t quite put my finger on what makes the best renditions so great. I must have been at least 20 years old before I ever assembled my own meatless melange. My mom never made it for our family meals, and I didn’t know enough to ask.

Lacking that essential reference point, it would be some bold claim to say that my illegitimate version is the best… But feels entirely fitting for this modern recipe revival.

That’s because instead of using the predictable, one-note tomato sauce base, I’ve pumped up the flavor volume with The Beet Goes On sauce from Bold Palate Foods. With a natural, subtle sweetness, deeply earthy savory notes, and bright spices, it’s a dynamite starter for any daring dining adventure. Simmered into an equally hearty and heart-healthy base of tender lentils and chopped cauliflower, there’s no contest when comparing nutritional stats.

Though you could very happily slap this thick stew on a bun and call it a dinner, I love the snappy, tangy bite of dill pickles on top. Conventional garnishes might call for a slice of day-glow orange American cheese, but I prefer to go bold, pouring No Cows on This Ranch dressing all over instead. It’s hard to beat that creamy, cooling, herbaceous contrast.

Tired of toting such big buns? Alternate serving suggestions run the gamut from spaghetti to baked potatoes, french fries, or even tacos. No need to stick to the beaten path when brighter, bolder, and smarter options are out there.

Be bold, and enjoy with reckless abandon.

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