A Summer Summary

This is a post dedicated to the data and experience I’ve had with WordPress over the last 3 weeks of posting.

Using WordPress has some growing pains. I didn’t hate that we had to use WordPress, I’ve been using WordPress since I was in 5th grade if that counts for anything. Some things that I don’t like with WordPress is that the themes aren’t always working. I initially wanted a tile homepage but the theme wasn’t compatible for some reason. I kept trying to get it to work but decided it wasn’t worth the effort for right now. For this project, I also don’t like that we were required to use Twitter. I used twitter exactly 0% before this project and I plan to use Twitter exactly 0% after this project… at least for personal use, I  may have to use it for a job eventually.

I don’t like the way the photo elements are implemented, especially when trying to make a tile post or a tryptic post of photos. WordPress automatically resizes and stretches photos to be uniform instead of masking or cropping and it looks terrible sometimes. There’s also this thing where if you resize an image and then go back and add a caption it will lose all the edits to the size you made and you b have to reformat it.

I do like the delay post button. That’s a nice integration and I wish Instagram would implement that feature into its software.

I found that the only time I ever got views was from WordPress itself, not from my promotional tweets. I really saw an influx of likes when I realized I can use tags (duh!) I forgot about tags. The post that took off was my “Best Veggie burgers in San Marcos” post which got a record-breaking 10 likes in 2 days.

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What’s Growing in my Garden?

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I’ve been gardening since I was in high school and I asked my parents for seeds for Christmas. My dad ending up building me a raised garden and I would grow cucumbers, snap peas, and most of all tomatoes. I would use old tires as planters and I would sit in the garden for a long time. I would rescue frogs from the swimming pool and put them in the garden, frogs so small they could sit on the tip of your pinky. Gardening is my happy place. I love checking on my compost and the way tomato stems smell.

Gardening sometimes feels a little witchy too. I would pour myself over gardening manuals and any central Texas gardening books I could get my hands on. Learning that you can clone and graft plants felt like I was doing magic. I feel like I learn something new every day when it comes to gardening. I’m in the thick of summer gardening right now. Summer is the time to grow tomatoes, squash, and peppers. Nothing is more satisfying than picking a bowl of produce that you grew yourself.

My summer garden has been in the works for quite some time. I planted the tomatoes and half of my peppers from seed back in March. Growing tomatoes from seed are quite rewarding but I do admit it is slow going at first. I’d never grown peppers before so I was quite pleased with the results. If you’re interested in starting a garden in central Texas I highly suggest checking the Agg Life extension. 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Veggie Burgers in San Marcos

I’ve been a vegetarian for 6 years, and I’ve lived in San Marcos for 4 of those. So I’ve had many local veggie burgers. Here’s a list of the best veggie burgers in San Marcos listed worst to best.

Note: NOT ALL BURGERS LISTED ARE VEGAN

8. Earth Burger

I don’t want to be the one to say it but it had to be done, Earth Burger is just okay. Earth Burger has a completely vegan menu. They don’t make their patties in-house. When I tried their signature burger for the first time last year when they opened, they used Boca Burger patties. Which if you’re not savvy in the knowledge of veggie burger patties, it’s a store bought low-calorie meat alternative. It’s basically what I eat if I’m on a diet. When I get a veggie burger I’m not trying to kid myself, I want something unhealthy. It’s actually really upsetting that a completely vegan establishment has the worst veggie burger on this list. Despite sporting 600 calories in a single burger it just doesn’t cut it for me.

Best on the menu: vegan strawberry coconut milkshake

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Earth Burger | Shelby Chew

7. Grins

I tried the Grins veggie burger on my birthday last year. There was a buy one get one free deal where if you bought 1 burger, the next one was free…. this didn’t apply to veggie burgers for some reason. This burger is low on the list because the patty was mushy and squeezed out the back end when you took a bite. They used rice as a binder for the patty, it also had corn and peas in the patty. Not a fan.

6. Hat Creek

This is my most recent try. I had this veggie burger last week. Wasn’t bad but it wasn’t anything special.

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Hat Creek | Shelby Chew

5. Freddy’s

Freddie’s is another “meh” sort of burger. It has a nice location right off of I-35 so I used to stop by there back in 2016 before there were more veggie burger options. Nothing wrong with their burgers except that they’re not vegan.

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Freddy’s | Shelby Chew

4. P. Terry’s

P. Terry’s veggie burger is what Earth Burger should model itself after. I’m not going to lie since P. Terry’s opened up a location in San Marcos last month I’ve been 5 times, It’s my go-to pre-river meal. My biggest complaint is that it’s not vegan, they use egg as a binder. They do sell a vegan version of their iconic patty at Whole Foods in Austin. This is THE BEST veggie burger for the price and convenience.

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P. Terry’s | Shelby Chew

3. Gil’s

Gil’s has the best homemade black bean burgers, I have to say. They make them in house and they’re packed with protein from the beans. When I make veggie burgers at home I always model them after Gil’s veggie burgers. The texture is one of the best textures of veggie burgers I’ve ever had. My only complaint is that it’s a little pricier than the other burgers on this list but definitely worth a try.

2. Binge Kitchen

Binge kitchen is new to the restaurant scene in San Marcos and they sport a completely vegan menu. They also have a burger that is completely made in house and absolutely a game changer. The best burger I’ve had of theirs is the buffalo chick’n burger. I get a side of mac&cheese (WHICH IS THE BEST VEGAN MAC I’VE EVER HAD HANDS DOWN). There is so much love put into this food there’s nothing on the menu that would disappoint. Completely vegan southern food. A must try.

1. Buzz Mill

This is by far the best vegan burger I’ve ever had. Their whole burger menu is completely vegan and there’s 5 burgers to choose from and they’re all completely different. You can’t go wrong with any of them. My favorite burger of theirs is the buffalo burger with everything on it. This is the best veggie burger you’ll find in San Marcos. They use Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger Plant-Based Burger Patties as their meat. Beyond meat has gotten it so right when it comes to that satisfying meaty texture that a lot of vegan burgers lack. It’s on the top of the list for a reason.

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Buzz Mill | Shelby Chew

Honorable mention:

In-N-Out Burger’s animal style grilled cheese. This is an honorable mention because In-N-Out doesn’t have a formal veggie burger patty. I find an animal-style grilled cheese satisfies that burger craving. It’s cheap and convenient as well.

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In-N-Out | Shelby Chew

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

I grew up in a home that always had chocolate chip cookies in the freezer. My mom made the best chocolate chip cookies I’d ever had. My dad told me that he never had a good cookie until he met my mom and I believe that. I’ve been thinking about cookies a lot lately and what they mean and why they always seem to taste different when it’s similar ingredients.

The following recipe is based on Butter and Brioche’s Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. This is my holy grail of cookie recipes. I’ve veganized it for this recipe but I usually put eggs in it (I get eggs from my neighbor). There are three very important instructions in this recipe. DO NOT SKIP THESE STEPS.

  1. Use a scale to weigh your ingredients
  2. make sure to whip your butter and sugar
  3. The espresso powder is crucial for the flavor profile these cookies are going for

If you’ve never used a scale to measure your ingredients this is a good reason. Baking is more of a science than other types of culinary arts, a tablespoon difference in baking soda and you can go from beautiful flat cookies to massive over poofed grotesque muffin cookies.

Ingredients

355 grams all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon espresso powder (sub instant coffee)

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

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Butter I use | from I Heart the Mart

250 grams unsalted vegan butter, cubed and at room temperature (I use “I can’t believe it’s not butter brand that comes in sticks)

175 grams granulated sugar

125 grams light brown sugar

2 flax eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla bean extract

400 grams vegan dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Flakey salt for garnish and flavor


Instructions

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Set the dry ingredient mixture aside until needed.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, or using hand-held electric beaters, beat together the butter, granulated sugar and light brown sugar on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Pause as needed to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure thorough mixing.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Again, pause mixing to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add in the vanilla bean extract and beat for a further minute, until well combined. The dough should be considerably lightened in color.

Set the mixer speed to medium-low and add in half the dry ingredients. Beat until roughly combined, then, add in the remainder of the dry ingredients. Beat for a further 30 seconds, or until just combined. Add in the roughly chopped dark chocolate and beat until evenly combined, about 15 more seconds.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and cover it in a thin layer of plastic wrap. Set the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking pan and set aside.

get the dough out of fridge and spoon 1 1/2 inch balls onto the pan, you should be able to fit at least 6-8 depending on the size of your pan.

Bake for 8-12 minutes until golden around the edges.

Garnish while still hot.

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Chocolate chip cookies | Shelby Chew

Vegan Gluten-Free Thai Noodle

I’ve been working on my Thai noodle recipe for the past few months or so. The recipe I initially started with was a vegan Dan Dan noodle from Hot For Food and I went from there. I’m still in the process of perfecting it but my family seems to like it.

I’ve always had trouble with Thai food until I realized the secret ingredient: sugar. The combo of sugar, soy and sesame oil sauce makes the quintessential Thai flavors. It’s probably not much of a secret, I was just the last person to learn. I also find that this recipe is a “clean your fridge” type of recipe. I usually put whatever odd vegetables in this dish that I have leftover from other stuff or can’t figure out what to do with them before they go bad.

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Mushroom Powder | Amazon.com

In a previous recipe, I used this stuff called mushroom powder. If you are looking to get into vegan cooking I suggest getting a massive bag of this magic powder. I first heard of mushroom powder from MommyTang who does Asian vegan cooking/mukbang videos on Youtube. Mushroom Powder works as a flavor enhancer it’s like MSG but natural. And from what I understand and have tasted, it adds an undeniable depth of flavor to dishes without using meat. I usually add about a tablespoon or two to any savory dish that would usually have beef or pork, like a shepherds pie or in this case, Thai noodles. I usually keep a bag of mushroom powder on hand or if you’re my mom… like 4 bags because she likes to share the transformative power of mushroom powder.

 


Ingredients

  • 1 package of wide rice noodles
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic or 1 tbs of garlic powder
  • 1 onion cut into wide strips
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 green pepper
  • 8oz of frozen pre-cooked broccoli
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • Zucchini cut in rounds  (optional)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)
  • 1 block of firm tofu, pressed and marinated with the sauce (optional)

The Sauce

  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp mushroom powder
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar (very important! substitute white sugar)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)


Directions

to keep my mess to a minimum I use 3 vessels, A large pot, a colander, and an Instapot.

In a large pot place the rice noodles in the room temp water and bring to a boil. Once boiling check the noodles, they should be al dente but not hard. Drain noodle water (DO NOT RINSE NOODLES UNDER COLD WATER) and place back in a large pot. while still warm add 3/4 of the sauce mixture and mix until the noodles no longer stick to each other. Make sure to mix the sauce well before you add it as the mushroom powder tends to sink to the bottom.

In the Instapot, use the saute setting and add the oil and vegetables in the order of the ingredients listed above. Make sure to salt or add a little mushroom powder to all the vegetables as they go in. Add the frozen broccoli last along with the rest of the sauce mixture. If you eat eggs you can also scramble some egg at this time and add it to the Instapot too.

Once all the ingredients have been cooked through go and taste the noodles that have been marinating in the sauce mixture, they should be soft at this point. Add noodles to the Instapot and stir until the veggies and the noodles have been well introduced. If there is a lot of excess liquid you can add a teaspoon of cornstarch.

You can serve at this time OR you can turn off the Instapot and allow the heat of the vegetables to cook the noodles a little bit more and marinate in the veggie juices. I would suggest allowing the dish to sit in the Instapot with the lid on for 6-10 minutes but serve it before the noodles get soggy.

Serve and garnish with Thai basil or cilantro.

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The Blogs I Follow

I’ve been on the internet since I was very young. Like I assume many of my peers, I believe I was partially raised by the internet and I was one of the first generations to be put in front of the computer at a young age. Total unrestricted access. I’ve had a blog since I was in 5th grade where I  blogged about Club Penguin on WordPress (I actually found that blog in all its misspelled glory!). I follow a couple of blogs regularly.

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Simon & Martina | Eat Your Kimchi

Eat Your Kimchi

Discovering Eat Your Kimchi on Youtube opened up a Pandora’s box of Korean (and later Japanese) culture I wasn’t familiar with. Fascinating, informative, entertaining. I’d like to believe that played a part in the reason I was so interested in visiting South Korean and also studying in Japan.

 

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Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies | Butter and Brioche

Butter And Brioche

A cooking blog, more specifically a baking blog. I initially found her recipe’s on Instagram but I love converting her recipes into more vegan-friendly. She uses a lot of science in her baking and her chocolate chip cookies are unrivaled and have completely changed my cookie game (who knew you can whip butter!?).

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vegan/GF pumpkin pie | Minimalist Baker

Minimalist Baker

My family is a modge-podge of different eating habits. I have 9 vegans in my immediate family. 3 of which are gluten-free. Minimalist Baker provided a lot of inspiration for my families Thanksgiving for the past few years. A few of my favorite recipe that I have to make every Thanksgiving is the Pumpkin Pie. 

 

 

BY FAR MY FAVORITE BLOGGER IS

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Lauren Toyota | Hot For Food Blog

Lauren Toyota from Hot For Food

I’ve probably made variations of 25% of her published recipes. There’s something about her bluntness towards vegan food. She believes vegan food should taste good- point blank. She’s not afraid of sugar and flour and vegan meat alternatives like a lot of other healthy-minded vegans. I’ve watched every single one of her videos on the Hot For Food channel on Youtube and her standard for food photography/filmography is unparalleled. She has no formal training in cooking but her food speaks for itself. My favorite videos of hers are the “Recipe?!” videos where she just looks in her fridge and see’s what she has and just makes something based off of a plethora of odd ingredients. Her food photography on her blog is what I aspire to create. Lauren Toyota has become a presence in my kitchen since I first went vegetarian.

Vegan Pizza- A Review

I’ve had many pizzas in my life. There’s just something undeniably satisfying about it. So simple and tasty. Crust, sauce, cheese, crust, sauce, cheese… so on and so on. What happens when you take out the dairy and animal products from that formula? Well, you’d be pleasantly surprised.

When I first went vegan I avoided pizza from the regular fairs… Dominos, Papa Johns, my usual local pizza place. But what the hell, life is too damn short to not enjoy pizza! Here is my usual pizza order if I were to keep it to a bare minimum. Crust, sauce, olives,

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My regular order from Blaze Pizza. Spicy red sauce with vegan cheese, olives, mushrooms, pineapple, green pepper, red onion, fresh tomato, basil, artichoke hearts, and dried oregano. ALL FOR ONLY $9.36

mushrooms, pineapple…. but where’s the cheese?… BUT WHERE’S THE CHEESE?! Call me boring but pizza is better with vegan cheese or with no cheese at all. And I’d be perfectly happy with sticking to no cheese, but everything changed when I discovered a new chain restaurant that opened only 5 miles from my houseBlaze Pizza. 

Blaze pizza has BY FAR has the best vegan pizzas I have ever eaten. I don’t want to make this sound like an advert but this is genuinely something that changed pizza for me. It’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s crunchy and most important, they have vegan cheese!

This post is more of a love story than an ad. I always hear people say “oh I could never go vegan, I’d miss ____ too much” but open your eyes! Fantastic affordable vegan alternatives are getting better and better every day if you actually look for them. My normal vegan pizza from Blaze usually comes out to be $9.36 but I always get a 2 for 1 deal with my boyfriend and the total for two build-your-own pies is only ever around $14 with a drink! I love pizza and I will probably not erase it from my diet anytime soon.