Groundbakers, Movers and Shakers

Most cookbooks exist to fulfill a very simple mission: To provide the inspiration and instructions to create food. The best cookbooks go further, using food as the vehicle to tell stories. It’s a subject that touches every facet of life, so to address it in a vacuum without those establishing details creates an unmet hunger. For anyone else that sees beyond the ingredients to how they were grown and who grew them, the treatment of animals, issues of food justice and equality, I’ve got a book for you.

Groundbakers by mother and daughter team Kathy and Mackenzie Feldman addresses our food system as a whole while providing the tools to start fixing it, piece by piece. It starts with education from esteemed experts in the field, also known as groundbakers.

 
 
Hemp Granola

What is a “groundbaker” and who are they?

GROUNDBAKER (ground-bay-ker) – Noun: An individual who is an originator, innovator, or pioneer in the transformation toward a just and regenerative food system.

Chickpea “Crab” Cakes

The list of contributors reads like a who’s who of culinary visionaries:

  • Alieen Suzara
  • Alice Waters
  • Anna Lappé
  • Bob Moore
  • Bryant Terry
  • Daphne Miller
  • Dean Wilhelm
  • Gail Myers
  • José Andrés
  • Leah Penniman
  • Liz Carlisle
  • Malia Smith
  • Maricela Vega
  • Michel Nischan
  • Sean Sherman
  • Steven Lawenda

Matt’s Loco Moco

With those insights come over 60 recipes to make some tough messages more palatable. There really is something in here for everyone- Vegan, gluten-free, and everything in between. I know firsthand that these dishes are every bit as compelling as the writing because I was lucky enough to create the photos.

Southwestern Salad

Over the course of five years, I got to capture the culmination of those stories, which always end in a good meal. You’ll find all your favorite classic comfort foods here, like sloppy Joe’s, mac and cheese, bagels with “lox,” hearty chili, and so much more. These are everyday staples that will quickly become indispensable for anyone that likes to cook, host, or eat.

Salted Tahini Banana Bread

Groundbakers Giveaway!

Another commonality between the best cookbooks is they’re even better when shared. That’s why I’m excited to share this giveaway for a copy of Groundbakers with you! To enter, let me know in the comment section below who you think qualifies as a groundbaker in your life, or which one of the groundbakers in this book is most inspirational. Don’t forget to come back and register your entry in the giveaway widget, along with additional opportunities to win.

Groundbakers by Kathy and Mackenzie Feldman

Get Your Game On, Go Play

The loss of play in the average adult’s life is downright tragic. It’s not like we ever outgrow the desire to have fun. We don’t sit down one day, make a spread sheet of all the extraneous things we can stand to lose (like guilt, shame, and misplaced emotions) and decide that the things bringing us joy, for no other purpose than to be happier in that moment, should be crossed off the list. What gives? Why do you have to be a “child at heart” to do something outside of work, just because you want to?

Forget that nonsense. I’ve spent too many years without any play, and now I’m taking it back. I’ve found my happy place at Cidercade, open to all ages and levels of maturity. Take your family, take your friends, take your dates, or just take your damn self; I’m tired of needing an excuse to get out and make merry.

What Games Can You Play At Cidercade?

For one flat fee of $10, you get all-day access to hundreds of arcade games. We’re talking new and retro, including pinball, fighters and shooters, sports like air hockey and skee-ball, racing, music like guitar hero and dancing; pretty much everything else you, your parents, or your kids ever loved. If you play your cards right, you can stay active and treat this as a cheaper alternative to a gym membership too.

What’s There to Drink and Eat At Cidercade?

Of course, the abundant options for hard beverages on tap might negate all those gains. All the drinks are Austin East Ciders exclusives, with lots of limited edition flavors you won’t find in cans. I’m forever craving the cream soda hard cider that popped up well over a year ago, but have never been disappointed by the classics, categorized by sweetness. For the non-drinkers, there’s unlimited Maine Root Soda option for just $4. They’re all made with cane sugar too, no corn syrup, presenting a distinct upgrade over the sticky fountain beverages of yore.

The real crowning glory of this establishment is the pizza. Honestly, these handmade pizzas have no right being so good. It’s an arcade, after all; shouldn’t the food be an afterthought? That’s certainly not the case here, where the pies come out fast and hot. Crispy, thin, and beautifully blistered crusts support a wide range of topping options, including perfectly gooey, fully melted vegan cheese. Caramelized onions and mushrooms are a must for me, which always comes out perfectly cooked and richly umami. I hear there are even gluten-free options, but haven’t been tempted to venture a taste.

There are five Cidercade locations across Texas, in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, and Arlington. Set aside time for your next play date today.

The Hole Story About Austin Bagels

Bagels are such a unique, distinctive class of bread that they deserve their own category. Visually, texturally, and fundamentally, they barely even resemble other yeasted staples. Every element is critical to the overall experience, from the glossy, chewy crust to the dense crumb inside. Few have successfully mastered the art of bagelry, and not just for lack of the alkaline water found in New York City.

Where can you get the best bagels?

Aside from making your own from scratch, access to quality options remains limited, especially outside of major cities. Sad to say, nothing found in the bread aisle of your local grocery store will ever measure up. Fortunately, it’s not a dying art- Quite the contrary. Out of nostalgia, cravings, and blind ambition, more and more young bakers across the country are throwing down the dough to make genuine bagels, and not some glorified ring-shaped dinner rolls.

NYC has the street cred, but not the monopoly on raw talent. Austin lays claim to five independent, local bagel makers. Plenty of restaurants and cafes are doing great things with sandwiched and schmeared creations, but I wanted to go straight to the source for this gustatory investigation. I’m talking about hunting down the very best bagel in town.

How can you judge the best bagel?

While every cafe worth their coffee beans offers a basic bagel, I went straight to the source, examining only those who bake their own bagels. For the sake of consistency, I compared only everything bagels, being the most popular variety across the board, without any toppings. Prices ranged from $1 – 4.50 apiece, making the very best of the batch an affordable luxury. Each is filling enough to make a solid breakfast, even without adornment, so I’d call that a bargain for a full meal. Here’s where your dollars are best spent.

Who bakes the best bagels from scratch in Austin?

  • Rosen’s Bagels is a relative newcomer to the world of commercial baking, beginning life a mere five years ago, but has quickly taken hold as the front runner in local cafes and grocery stores. If it wasn’t enough to get a dozen delivered straight to your door, they now have two shiny new brick-and-mortar locations that are perpetually buzzing with hungry carbivores. Founder Tom Rosen has a simple formula for success, and is simply doing it right. The dough goes through a 48 hour fermenting and rising process to develop complex flavors, enhanced by the traditional addition of subtly sweet malt powder. Best of all, the everything bagels are double-seeded, tossed in the signature seasoning mixture on both sides to ensure no bald spots. Top and bottom halves are full coated for a serious flavor punch.

  • Rockstar Bagels has been rising to the occasion since 2009 with their malt-boiled bagels that positively shine in the early morning light. They’re the first local bagel to grace my table since they’re available at Wheatsville a la carte for mere pocket change. These plump rings sport an elegantly lacquered finish with a topping that tends to skew heavier on sesame seeds, enhancing the nutty, toasted flavor. Maybe that’s why I find them more compelling once split and toasted than simply warmed. Bulk bin grocery store bagels have questionable quality, even if they’re locally made, so always go to their walk-up window for the best, freshest batches.

  • Wholy Bagel stands apart from the pack by proudly touting their New Jersey-style bagel, boasting a notably fluffier crumb with a cracklingly crisp exterior. The combination of textures is unique, coming together as an a fully satisfying experience in a slightly unconventional format. Don’t forget that everything is bigger in Texas; when you order a dozen, it’s not a Baker’s Dozen but a Wholy Texas Dozen; 14 bagels for the price of 12.

  • Nervous Charlie’s can certainly be anxiety-provoking if you’re not prepared to wait on line. Perpetually swamped with hungry carbivores, it’s nigh impossible to beat the crowds. Most people are drawn to the loaded bagel sandwiches for a hearty breakfast, brunch, or lunch, but the ungarnished bread base itself is quite a prize. Plump, thick, and dense, each substantial ring demonstrates mastery of the dough.

  • Casper Fermentables adds more nuance to the local bagel conversation with their sourdough Montreal-style offerings. A passion for probiotics defines their offerings that run the gamut from kombucha to kimchi. Once a humble farmers market stand, Casper is the latest homegrown success to set up a permanent outpost in the Sunset Valley neighborhood. Now you can enjoy an expanded menu of ready to eat sandwiches and pastries, but the bagels remain the top seller. Even my New York-born father was impressed by the golden brown and mildly tangy, thoroughly chewy rings.

Honorable Mentions

Anyone baking their own bagels deserves props for doing it the right way, rather than the easy way. Not all of them rank at the top of my list, but they’re still far and away better than anything else you’d find on store shelves.

  • Big City Bagels and Subs tends to fly below the radar, putting more emphasis on the sandwiches than the bread, but the main issue is just getting there in time. Bagels are liable to sell out early, the shop sometimes closes early, and I can never seem to hit the road early enough.
  • Swedish Hill offers deluxe (albeit not vegan) fixings for dine-in guests, but the solo bagels are fairly forgettable. Not enough toppings to be considered everything; more like a few things. It doesn’t feel worth the price of entry to me.

New York may have perfected the art of the bagel, but it no longer has the monopoly. There are plenty of great bagels down south in the Greater Austin Area and beyond.

Fully Vetted

Dogs aren’t tough to understand. At least when it comes to my boy Luka, no words are needed to communicate just how much he hates the vet. Between the whining, crying, tail between the legs, ears back, and frantic escape attempts, it’s impossible to miss. Although my reaction isn’t so visceral, I have to admit, I don’t enjoy those visits much more. I’ve seen all too many upsetting scenes of mistreatment and outright disrespectful that I’ve come to dread even a routine checkup as if it was a personal assault.

No matter where we go, it always turns into an ordeal. After one too many borderline traumatizing experiences, we were both at wit’s end. In search of a better way, The Vets hit my radar as a completely new approach. Rather than piling into the car for an interminable ride of terror, they come to you for in-home services. The theory being that our pets, like ourselves, are much more comfortable at home, without enduring the stress or wasted time sitting around in a sterile waiting room.

Though naturally defensive of his territory, Luka knows dog people when he meets them, and quickly calmed down after spending a few minutes with our incredibly kind and compassionate vet techs. It wasn’t a numbers game, so we had time to talk, get to know one another, and build trust with my loving but inherently fearful pup. Lots of treats and a little play with his favorite toys went a long way. Finally, we were able to get baseline numbers and certifications where other vets had failed to even discern an accurate weight, given Luka’s typical state of hysteria at that point.

What services do The Vets provide?

  • Wellness exams for routine health maintenance
  • Emergency sick visits, available as next-day or same-day appointments
  • Microchipping and puppy exams for new additions to the family
  • Health certificates needed for travel, housing, and more
  • Vaccines such as Rabies, Parvo, Distemper, Leptospirosis, and Bordetella
  • Ultrasounds for pregnant pups (and cats!)
  • Dermatology that includes skin and nail care
  • Lab testing for diagnostic analysis
  • Euthanasia

The experience was in stark contrast to the misery we suffered just a few weeks ago to update Luka’s rabies vaccination at a nearby walk-in clinic. Despite arriving 15 minutes before the doors opened, we were already 18th in line, behind pet parents with multiples and a wide range of complex needs. We sat in the car (to stay away from aggressive dogs in the lobby) for over two hours, giving Luka plenty of time to build up a solid case of anxiety. By the time a technician could finally see us, Luka wasn’t having any of it. They muzzled my poor boy who wouldn’t hurt a soul because he was deemed “reactive,” only heightening his fight-or-flight response.

If only we could have waited. Here, on the same couch where he loves to nap and watch TV in my lap, he took his annual shots without so much as a yip. The difference was night and day. My one and only disappointment, personally, is that these vets don’t see human patients too!

Have you seen The Vets yet?

The Vets serve most major cities in the United States 7 days a week, morning to night. There is a better way to get help for our fur babies when they need it most. It’s a personalized, compassionate approach, creating a new standard for preventative pet care.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and The Vets. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Cakes of Biblical Proportions

Some cookbooks are more aspirational than inspirational. You know the sort; heavy, hard covers with glossy photos splashed across the pages. If not for the text, they could qualify as art projects, printed and bound for posterity. Laid out deliberately in plain view for guests to notice, appreciating your good taste, such things are pure beauty have plenty of value all the same.There’s a place on every well-appointed bookshelf for recipes dedicated to 10 minute meals and entirely unobtainable food porn.

On rare occasion, if you’re lucky, you’ll come across a cookbook that fits both descriptions. Filled with lofty pastry goals that look like the stuff of sweet dreams, yet written in such a way that you could genuinely recreate these edible sculptures in real life, Sara Kidd bridges that gap with her groundbreaking release of The Vegan Cake Bible.

Deserving of culinary worship, these are not your mom’s bake sale tray bakes. We’re talking Caramel Swirl Bundt with Nougatine, Almond Sponge with Caramelized Apple & Ginger Meringue Buttercream, Vanilla Malt Marshmallow Birthday Cake, and beyond. By including a full breakdown of each individual component, you can easily mix and match to create the unique combination you’re truly craving.

Roast Carrot Cardamom Cake

It’s not just a set of instructions, but a full education that could rival the popular virtual pastry courses offered by highly esteemed culinary schools. We’re talking about the nitty gritty behind food science, shedding light on why ingredients interact the way they do, creating unique textures and flavors to better harness that power. Sara won’t leave you hanging when it’s time to stack things up, with tips and tricks to build sound foundations for towering cakes, no matter how tall. Naturally, plenty of time is given to decorating skills that go beyond a basic piping bag, creating treats as beautiful as they are delicious. There’s even a chapter about transporting your cakes when it’s party time!

As a certified Old Vegan™, I wish I had such a complete guide when I was blindly mashing bananas into everything, hoping and praying the results would be reasonably edible. Never could I have even imagined these feats of cake mastery, made accessible to anyone bold enough to call themselves a Baker. Though initially daunting, I promise, these luscious, layered creations are within your reach.

What’s even more incredible is the unbelievable number of gluten-free options all throughout these colorful pages. Her Gluten-free Vegan Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd and American Buttercream is a case in point, which she generously granted me permission to reprint here. However, I don’t think my little recipe card could do it proper justice; there’s so much more description within her original post, that I must implore you to make that one extra click to get all the info.

While you’re over there, don’t miss Sara’s full archive of sweet recipes, videos, and even baking classes for hands-on experiences with the master herself. Anyone even remotely interested in sweets will relish such an indispensable resource. Treat yourself, or someone you love, to the gift of truly incredible vegan cakes today.

DO Try This At Home

Home cooking has taken on greater importance over the past few years. Rising interest in food overall had already tipped the scales in favor of more homemade meals, and then the pandemic hit, making it a beacon of hope amid dwindling choices. For those with demanding schedules, tight budgets, tricky dietary restrictions, or limited experience, the shift has been anything but palatable.

Go ahead, take it easy. Laura Theodore is revitalizing comfort food as we know it, giving everyone the tools to create healthy, hearty, home cooked meals on their own terms. That means accessible ingredients, user-friendly instructions, and even low-impact clean up when it’s all said and done. If you’re craving a bite of nostalgia with better nutrition, Easy Vegan Home Cooking has exactly what you need.

BBQ Tempeh Triangles (p. 136)

Everything prepared in your own kitchen qualifies as “home cooking,” but there’s deeper meaning to the concept than such a basic definition can allow. Traditionally, the term implies comfort food, something made with intention, love, and care. It’s not fancy, and sometimes even downright ugly, but each bite feeds more than just the basic need for fuel. Takeout can never rise to such heights.


Laura’s Blueberry-Banana Smoothie (p. 41)

Easy Vegan Home Cooking includes over 125 cozy, comforting recipes that transform minimal ingredients into deeply satisfying meals. Bucking the conventional notion that soulful, crave-worthy cooking needs to make nutritional compromises, these dishes are notably low in added oil, salt, and sugar. Removing such cheap crutches lets fresh flavors do the talking instead.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Butternut Squash Soup (p. 76)

You’ve gotta taste it to believe it. That’s why I’m excited to share this giveaway for a copy of Easy Vegan Home Cooking by Laura Theodore! To enter, let me know in the comment section below what “home cooking” means to you, and what your most essential home cooked meal is. Don’t forget to come back and register your entry in the giveaway widget, along with additional opportunities to win.

Easy Vegan Home Cooking by Laura Theodore