Tag Archives: Vegan

Let’s Taco ‘Bout Veganism

No one can relate to the feelings of a baby cow more than Lauren Ornelas can. 

“My mom was taking care of my sisters and I and she would have to leave me places and I would miss her,” Ornelas said. 

“I would see the cows in the fields and I would think, ‘I don’t want to be responsible for their suffering and their pain,’” Ornelas said.  “You know, the baby waiting for the mom or mom waiting for the baby, and somebody decided to eat them.” 

Photo by Doruk Yemenici on Unsplash

Ornelas is the founder of the Food Empowerment Project and Vegan Mexican Food Recipe site. Latinx vegetarians/vegans like Ornelas are used to receiving gasps and skepticism from family members after shifting to a plant-based lifestyle. For years, a certain image has dominated the vegan and vegetarian world, and that image didn’t always include people of color.  

“I think it’s because a lot of what has been brought to people talking about these issues have been white people,” Ornelas said. “But (it) hasn’t been the brown or Black people whose cultures didn’t consume a lot of animal products, or were (already) vegetarian or vegan.”  

Even though the Latinx community and other communities of color have started to break through the white noise of veganism, the relationship between veganism and the Latinx community is strained, which makes life as a Latinx vegetarian a bit… complicated. 

Lauren Ornelas: Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

The complication starts with the word itself. Ornelas said part of the reason why the words vegetarian and vegan scare some Latinx people away is because of who’s been in the spotlight. 

“I think that (vegetarianism) seems kind of a white thing, because that is what is always presented and part of that’s right because we don’t get the same platform,” Ornelas said.

While food is a big part of Mexican culture, Ornelas added there’s a misconception that meat is also a big part of Mexican culture. She said many of Mexico’s Indigenous people weren’t big on meat and the idea of Mexicans and a plant-based lifestyle isn’t as far-fetched as people tend to think. 

“Our ancestors weren’t vegan by any means but they weren’t consuming animals that much,” Ornelas explained “They just weren’t eating (meat) like people do today and they certainly weren’t doing dairy until…Columbus, who brought the cows and the goats over.” 

Indigenous people weren’t exactly vegan, but a lot of what they ate would’ve been beans, corn and a whole lot of plants. 

Veganism and culture is still a complicated thing with many parts to it. Ornelas and her sites are trying to make the parts into smaller bite-sized pieces for people to understand. While the sites were created to share recipes for vegan Mexican food, they also share information on systematic food barriers, farm worker issues and more problems connected to veganism.

“We work to show that these issues are connected. The food system harms many and so our work is trying to get people to make these connections, and also to use their food choices as a way to create change,” Ornelas said. 

Now, she hopes that Vegan Mexican Food can be her way of giving back to the community she loves so much. She hopes to change the fact that many Latinx people suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure and other health issues. 

“It’s one thing we can give back to our families, right?” Ornelas said. “I mean, to be able to give these recipes that are actually healthier for them, so that we can lessen the diabetes rates and heart attacks.”

La Vegetariana 

In her four years of being a vegetarian in a Mexican household, Stephanie Nunez, a biochemistry sophomore, has had to learn a thing or two. 

For example, she’s learned that with the right seasoning and a good amount of patience, mushrooms can taste pretty darn good in enchiladas.

“Quite honestly, with mushrooms, if you season them really well you can try and get them to taste like meat,” Nunez said.

She’s also learned that while her Mexican, mean looking, mustache havin’ dad may look like a tough guy, his search history exposed his soft spot for Pinterest feeds and Youtube videos of old white women cooking vegetarian food. 

“My dad’s a mechanic and has a mustache and it’s so funny to see him on Pinterest.” Nunez said. “He got really excited, because the other day on YouTube he found this Mexican woman who does vegan recipes and vegetarian recipes. But sometimes he’ll be watching these, like old little white ladies on Youtube and he’ll be taking notes.” 

She’s learned how to overcome a lot over the years, like all the jokes from her brother about being a bunny and the speculation from family members about it.

“The conversation would go the exact same way, I would tell them, ‘Oh, I don’t eat meat anymore’ and they’d be like, “Why? Because of the animals?’’ Nuez said. “And then I’d be like, ‘Well, I guess, but also just makes me feel really sick so I just decided to stop eating it,’  and then they’d be ‘That’s really weird, but like, why?’ and we just kind of continue that way.”

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

However, one of the hardest parts of her journey wasn’t learning how to tackle mushrooms. She said the hardest part was learning how to find new ways to connect in her culture’s love language.  

In Mexican culture, food is a type of love language. For me, every time I come home from college, my mom always serves me more than I can chew just to remind me that she loves me more than I’d ever know. For many other Mexicans, it’s not uncommon for an “I love you” to be disguised as a “Let me make you some food.”

For Nunez, it was hard to gauge how that love language would change, especially when she wasn’t able to eat a lot of the foods that conveyed love.  

Nunez remembers the times she was sick and the only thing that would make her feel better wasn’t any type of medicine. It was her mother’s caldo, a soup made with chicken. Being vegetarian meant letting go of food with meat in it, but for Nunez, it also meant letting go of the memories and love that went with it.

“My dad and my mom would make it for me if I was feeling sick, or if it was cold, or if I had a tough day, like, my family would make it for me because it was my favorite,” Nunez said. “And there’s really no substitute for that so it’s kind of hard to let go of dishes like that.” 

While Nunez said food has always been a big deal in her culture, the ability to cook for loved ones is an essential part of the Mexican love language, mentioning how her grandma’s recipe books serve 12 people for that reason.   

“That’s just so beautiful to me,” Nunez said. “It’s like you’re anticipating that you’re going to be taking care of that many people and you’re wanting to feed that many people and it’s just, I think food is really important in Mexican culture.” 

Before she was able to find recipes with her dad, Nunez said her mom had a hard time cooking for her, making it a little tricky to express love through food. 

“My grandma, my mom would get kind of stressed out about it (and say) ‘Well, what am I going to cook for you?’’ Nunez said.  

Despite this, Nunez said the challenges helped her family realize that cooking is simply better together and that maybe an “I love you” can also be translated to “Let’s make dinner.” 

Although they haven’t quite perfected mushroom tacos and they’re still dabbling with tofu tacos, Nunez said the effort is what matters most. 

“It just means a lot to me to have my parents supportive about it,” Nunez said.  “It’s really touching that they care so much about me that they’re willing to learn a lot of new things that were foreign.” 

Food continues to be a love language for Nunez and her family. It just looks more green and less lean. 

“We’ve been able to create kinds of new foods that have helped me still connect to my family like they’re still Mexican food,” Nunez said. “I don’t feel like I’m severed from my culture. I still feel connected to my family and my culture through the food.” 

THE EXECUTION

Tacos and traditions look a little different at Sergio Tamez’s food truck. Sure, food lovers can order the usual kind of tacos — sizzling carne asada tacos, fiery fajita tacos and even crunchy chicharones. 

But, inside the tacos, is anything but traditional. Every option on Nissi Vegan Mexican Cusine’s menu is completely plant-based. The “meat” is a soy protein Tamez makes homemade—even their queso is vegan.

https://www.instagram.com/p/COQnLcAl9zU/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

In a culture where sometimes an “I love you” is said through a home cooked meal, Tamez understands the impact traditional Mexican food can have on people’s lives. He said it’s part of the reason why he and his wife opened up their food truck. 

When him and his wife moved from Dallas to Austin and started their vegan journey, they couldn’t find any food that checked all three boxes — good, vegan AND authentic. 

“We started going vegan and we had a hard time finding places that were authentic, or, you know, something that was something that we liked,” Tamez said. We kind of are picky eaters.” 

Inspired by their family’s cooking and their own passion for it, Tamez and his wife took matters into their own hands and started the food truck in 2018. 

“Cooking was always a hobby so I have my own recipe book, my wife has her own recipe book and we just combine things,” Tamez said. “For example al pastor, that’s her recipe. Carne asada, it’s my recipe. The red salsa is her recipe, the green salsa, it’s mine. So it’s a combination. It’s like a team.”

While the business has been up and running for a couple of years now, the journey was not easy. A lot of their now popular recipes were the results of hundreds of failed experiments and a whole lot of teamwork. 

“You eventually will throw out a lot of food because, (you’ll be) like, ‘Oh, man. I cannot eat this,’’’ Tamez said. “It was like, months, months of trying to and lots of money. Lots of it was a big investment.”

However, once they did get their recipes right, they loved sharing their creations with Austinites.

“I was thinking more on the pleasure of eating, not just eating bland food,” Tamez said.  “I thought about it more by providing a more delicious, or a better tasting food.”

Still, Tamez understands why Latinx people are skeptical when they see things like birria tacos, tacos made out of goat meat, with no actual meat on his menu. He was even a skeptic himself. Tamez said when his cousin became a vegan he didn’t understand why until he started to transition to a vegan lifestyle himself. 

“He went all the way to veganism and then, at some point, I was like, ‘Man, something’s wrong with your head!’’ Tamez said. “But then we watched several documentaries on Netflix. He made me look a little bit deeper and then we decided to start transitioning. It was a long transition but we finally became vegan.”

While he knows the conversation surrounding veganism and Mexican culture isn’t going to change overnight, he hopes that places like Nissi can start to change minds, hearts and feed families for generations to come. 

“A lot of people get discouraged when they see the vegan word,” Tamez said. “But when they try it out and they’re like okay! You know, they really enjoy it.” 

Featured image courtesy of Kara Fields

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and we all know what that means – family, football, and FOOD!

Illustration by Sierra Rodriguez

In case you’re vegan, starting a plant-based diet, or just hoping to eat healthier this holiday season, here are some tasty Vegan thanksgiving recipes that are easy to cook and even easier to eat!

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Vegan Butter
  • 6 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
  • 3 14oz Cans Coconut Milk 
  • 1 cup Vegetable Stock
  • 3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 3 tsp Onion Powder
  • 3 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 3 Thick Slices White Bread (Toasted)
  • 2 Tbsp Vegan Butter (Melted)
  • 1 18oz package of elbow macaroni

Directions:

  1. Add the vegan butter to a pot and let it melt. When it’s melted add in the all purpose flour and stir it vigorously with the melted butter.
  2. Then pour in the cans of coconut milk and the vegetable stock. Use a hand whisk to whisk out the lumps. Keep whisking until it starts to boil and then keep whisking for a few minutes after it has boiled until it thickens. It will continue to thicken as it cools, so it doesn’t have to be all the way there when you remove it from the heat, as long as it has thickened considerably from when you started.
  3. Remove it from the heat and add in the dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and whisk in. Now your sauce is ready, you can prepare your macaroni.
  4. Cook your macaroni according to the package directions and then rinse and drain.
  5. Add the cooked macaroni into the pot of sauce and toss it up with the sauce.
  6. Then transfer the macaroni and sauce to a 9×13 baking dish and smooth down.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  8. Prepare the crumb topping by breaking up the 3 thick slices of toasted white bread and placing into the blender. Pulse blend until you have crumbs. Then transfer to a mixing bowl, and add in the melted vegan butter and toss up the crumbs with the melted butter.
  9. Place the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the macaroni.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown and crispy.
Image courtesy of Unsplash

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs russet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 5 large garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened unflavored almond milk
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Rinse and scrub potatoes and place in a large pot.
  2. Cover potatoes with hot water and bring to a boil, salt generously (about 2 teaspoons).
  3. Boil potatoes until a fork can go all the way through.
  4. While potatoes are boiling, sautee diced onion and garlic in a skillet with a teaspoon of olive oil.
  5. Cook garlic and onions until done (about 5 minutes on medium heat or until onion is translucent).
  6. Puree garlic and onion mixture with almond milk in a blender until it reaches a paste texture.
  7. Once potatoes are soft, mash them in a large bowl or pan and add garlic/onion puree, vegan butter, and salt and pepper to taste ( I used an additional 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper).

Vegan Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 Tablespoons coconut sugar, or granulated sugar of choice
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 and 3/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
  • 4 Tablespoons melted coconut oil, or neutral vegetable oil of choice
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • Coarse sea salt for topping

Directions

Mix the coconut sugar, yeast, and warm water together in a large bowl. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes in order to activate the yeast. Once the yeast has foamed, add the oil, maple syrup, salt, and pumpkin puree to the bowl and mix it all up.

  1. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until fully incorporated before adding in another full cup of flour.
  2. Use the last cup of flour to dust your hands and the dough throughout the kneading process. Lightly knead the dough until a slightly sticky dough ball forms, this should take about 2-3 minutes. (You may not need the full cup of flour. I use anywhere from 1/4-3/4 cups of it.) 
  3. Once the dough comes together shape it into a ball. Then, lightly coat the bowl and the dough with a bit of oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 45 minutes.
  4. Turn out the risen dough onto a floured surface. Depending on the size of rolls you want, cut the dough into 9,12 or 16 evenly sized pieces. 
  5. Form each piece into a ball by pulling and tucking the edges of the dough underneath itself. Gently roll the dough ball, seam side down, on an unfloured surface to create a smooth ball.
  6. Transfer rolls to a lightly oiled oven safe dish.
  7. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow the rolls to rise for another 30-45 minutes.
  8. Once the rolls have doubled in size, bake at 400ºF for 14-20 minutes or until the tops brown.
  9. Brush the warm rolls with oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Vegan Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • 10 slices (450g) bread of choice cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (add more if needed)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1.  Preheat your oven to 400F.
  2. Spread the bread cubes across two large baking sheet. Bake for about 5-8 minutes until dried out and very lightly browned. 
  3. Next, melt the vegan butter in a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. When melted add the carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes until the veggies soften and begin to brown. 
  4. Stir in the thyme, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper. Then add the toasted bread cubes, vegetable broth, and dried cranberries -no need stir at this point. Remove the pan from heat and cover, then let sit for 10 – 15 minutes until softened. Stir well to combine and serve hot.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

For Pie Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ lb vegetable shortening (½ cup + 1 tbsp) cold and cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup non-dairy milk

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. 
  2. Add in the cubes of vegetable shortening, using a fork to cut it into the flour until the mixture reaches a crumbly texture.
  3. Next, drizzle the milk over the flour mixture and mix with a fork until everything is combined enough to form a ball of dough. Be sure not to overmix!
  4. Clear your work surface and lightly dust it with flour. Then, scoop out your dough, shape it into a ball and place it in the center of your floured work surface.
  5. Roll out your dough into a circle. It should be a few inches larger than your pie plate in order to make room for the sides and edges of the crust.
  6. Transfer the dough into your pie plate. The easiest way to do this is by wrapping your dough around a rolling pin before carefully setting it into the dish.
  7. With a knife, trim off the excess dough around the edges of the pie plate. Fill any holes in the crust with extra pieces of dough.
  8. Finally, pinch the edges with either your fingers or a fork to add the finishing touches to your beautiful vegan pie crust! 

For Pie Filling 

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Your pie crust should already be prepared inside your pie plate and ready to go.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the canned pumpkin, brown sugar, coconut milk, cornstarch, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and salt until fully combined and smooth.
  3. Pour mixture into the dish lined with your pie crust and spread evenly with a spatula.
  4. Bake for 1 hour and let cool for 30 minutes at room temperature. Cover the pie and chill in the fridge overnight, or for 4 hours at the very least.
  5. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

How to be Cute and Cruelty-Free In College

As college students, we tend to lose sight of shopping ethically in favor of buying what’s cheap and convenient – especially in terms of fashion. However, as much as we love saving money, it’s important to remember those affected by our purchases, and that’s not always limited to people. The animals we love can be hurt by major fashion brands, too. According to PETA, many animals that we hold dear to our hearts are being exploited by the international fur trade. This ranges from birds, cows, and rabbits, to snakes, cats, and dogs.

So, how does a broke college student go about buying clothes, makeup, and accessories even Bevo would approve of? By shopping vegan, of course! While the word vegan scares some people, it’s important to note that vegan just means something free of animal products.  However, not everyone has the time to research what they’re buying – so here’s a list of affordable brands to amp up your look while you’re here at the Forty Acres.

H&M

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

H&M has made its mark as one of the few retailers to move towards sustainable fashion and beauty. None of their cosmetics are tested on animals, and they refuse to sell real fur. While the company does sell some leather products, they also have many faux leather alternatives that are just as cute. There isn’t an H&M near campus, but they offer free shipping for purchases over $40, and only charge $3.99 for anything below.

If you’re not interested in online shopping, the nearest H&M is located in The Domain at 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Austin, TX 78758.

Forever 21

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Like H&M, Forever 21 is another brand that has promised never to sell real fur. They offer an extensive variety of faux leather products; from jackets and skirts, to shoes, belts, and handbags. Forever 21 is one of the more affordable clothing brands on this list, but prices depend upon on the quality and complexity of the materials being purchased from this store.

Forever 21 is great for online shopping and offers delivery services, but it is also located in The Domain at 3409 Esperanza Crossing #110, Austin, TX 78758.

Target

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Unlike H&M and Forever 21, Target can be found on campus off of Guadalupe – also known as “the drag” in the longhorn community. They offer many leather and wool-alternatives, though the selection may be limited due to the small size of this location. Vegan fashions would be easily accessible here due to the proximity of this store to campus, eliminating extra shipping costs you might be met with during online shopping.

This Target is located at 2025 Guadalupe St. Ste 01-100, Austin, TX 78705.

Patagonia

Photo courtesy of Patagonia

There’s not a Patagonia store near campus, but Patagonia merchandise is sold in the Tyler’s store off of Guadalupe Street. This brand uses more conventional materials to create their products, such as hemp and recycled cotton, but they also have wool-alternatives such as PrimaLoft® to insulate their parkas.  They also reduce their consumption of wool materials by using recycled wool in many of their products. This is a great brand to help you keep warm this winter, but it is more costly than the other brands.

Patagonia products can be found at the Tyler’s store at 2338 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705.

Pacifica

Photo courtesy of Pacifica

Pacifica is a brand that specializes in skincare and makeup that prides itself on being 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Their products are formulated around natural ingredients and fragrances, as opposed to harsh chemicals, and the same can be said for their makeup. However, because of their ingredient choices and product formulation, some of their makeup is not as full-coverage as conventional brands.

Pacifica products can be purchased online, or in person at the Target on Guadalupe.

e.l.f. Cosmetics

Photo courtesy of e.l.f. Cosmetics

e.l.f.  specializes in makeup, and beyond that, they ensure their makeup brushes and tools are vegan. A lot of their makeup products not only benefit your look, but your skin, too; most formulations include vitamins meant to restore and refresh your skin, unlike other beauty products. Also, e.l.f. is a very affordable  for the college student on a budget.

e.l.f. products, like Pacifica, can also be purchased at Target on Guadalupe.

Photo courtesy of Helena Lopes from Pexels