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Posts by Lisa Weems

Black Eyed Peas and Greens: a New Year’s Tradition

It is a long-standing Southern custom to eat black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day to bring good fortune in the coming year. Origin stories vary somewhat, but it is generally agreed that the ritual began during the Civil War, when Union soldiers pillaged the food supplies of their Confederate opponents, leaving behind only the peas and greens as food for livestock. However, Southerners were able to survive the lean years of the war by eating these nutrient-dense foods themselves. Some claim that the black-eyed peas symbolize coins and the greens folding money, so eating them on the first day of the year means  financial success in the coming year. We’ll have an array of dishes featuring these traditional ingredients to help you get your good luck on for 2018:


Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Tender peas and a whole array of fresh vegetables and herbs simmered in a tasty tomato-based broth. This soup goes wonderfully with our own Bakehouse-made cornbread (in spicy Southwestern or vegan  varieties), yet another traditional New Year’s dish in the South.


Braised Greens and Black-Eyed Peas

Organic lacinato kale combined with garlic-infused black-eyed peas, caramelized onions, and vegan Bac’un Bits to add that classic smoky flavor.


Texas Caviar

A black-eyed pea salad with crisp colorful peppers and a tangy vinaigrette dressing.


Plain Jane Black-Eyed Peas

Simply cooked and recipe-ready! Try them in this super-easy and tasty hash for the first breakfast of the year:

www.veganricha.com/2016/12/black-eyed-pea-sweet-potato-hash.html

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Popcorn Tofu!

Wheatsville may be many things to many people, but for a lot of folks, it’s all about the Popcorn Tofu. Scroll through our Yelp! page, and you’ll see people from all over the country waxing rhapsodic over these deep-fried nuggets of goodness, using words like “stupendous” and “divine.”  One enthusiastic fan raves, “It is so good I look like a crazy woman when I eat it, because I have to talk to it and let it know how much I love it.” So how did this magical stuff come to be a Wheatsville staple?

Popcorn tofu originated about ten years ago, when Wheatsville was still one store with one tiny kitchen. The cooks were struggling to meet the demand for another iconic Wheatsville dish, the Southern Fried Tofu, which calls for slices of frozen, thawed, and pressed tofu to be dunked in a marinade, then breaded with a dry mixture of flour, cornmeal, nutritional yeast, and spices. In order to streamline this process, one of the cooks came up with the idea to combine the wet and dry ingredients to create a batter for the tofu, and Wonko’s Popcorn Tofu was born (the name was quickly abbreviated to just Popcorn Tofu, or PCT in Wheatsville-speak—apparently Wonko was a shy guy).

The new dish was an immediate hit, so much so that frying batches in a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop quickly became unsustainable. Fresh Manager Dana Tomlin (then kitchen manager) took matters into her own hands and bought a tabletop deep fryer at Target, then the largest commercial fryer that could fit in the kitchen, and still the deli ran through batches of PCT in a matter of hours. By then, plans for the renovation of the Guadalupe store were in progress. Dana says, “I like to think we did it for the sake of the PCT lovers of the world! But, honestly, most of the store was having this same thing happen—we were all busting out of our seams and the need for space, larger equipment, and more storage was increasing.”

I began my Wheatsville career at around this time, in the spring of 2008, as a baker and a deli counter clerk. I have vivid memories of Dennis, a former cook, making the popcorn tofu at the end of his shift, around 2 pm. Customers would start to trickle in at this time, asking, “Is the popcorn ready yet?” We counter clerks would dash to the kitchen to pull portions of freshly fried PCT from the cooling rack to make po’boys, and by the time it was cool enough to put in the display case, half of the batch would be gone. I don’t ever recall a batch lasting past 7 pm.

One of the deli’s main priorities for the renovation, then, was to ensure that we NEVER AGAIN run out of popcorn tofu! We built our kitchen, with a giant hood vent and electrical capacity, to support a full-sized commercial fryer, doubled our batch size to 40 pounds of tofu, and the rest is Wheatsville history! The freezing, thawing, and pressing process still takes several days but is essential to the success of the dish, since it helps the batter cling to the tofu, so we’ve created a walk-in and freezer storage system that revolves around the process.  Our suppliers fortunately adapted to our continuously growing demand for tofu—we buy more tofu from our distributor than anyone else in Texas!

With the PCT system honed to this fine edge, we were able to introduce another flavor a few years back. The Spicy Buffalo Popcorn Tofu (BPCT) made its debut for Super Bowl 2012 and rapidly became part of our daily routine, along with its companion sauce, the Vegan Blue Cheez Dressing. When we rolled out our pizza program not long after, Chad Peters, one of our longest-tenured cooks and a popcorn tofu master, suggested using the small crumbles that are the inevitable by-product of the frying process as a topping. I admit I scoffed, but of course he was right—the PCT and BPCT pizzas with vegan Daiya cheese are among our top sellers.
Over the years, we have shared these recipes and the tips and tricks that make them successful with over 20 other co-ops around the country. We like to think that we are helping to grow the co-op Economy nationwide, right in line with our BIG direction, by demystifying the magic that is popcorn tofu!

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Frosty Summer Sippers

Summer is here! and boy are we thirsty. Luckily the Deli has you covered with tried and true thirst quenching favorites and some new additions as well. Firstly the most exciting thing for us is the addition of the self service beverage fountains along with the coffee and tea urns. Getting your favorite summer beverage is now faster and easier than ever! So what are these awesome drinks and why do we love them so much?

Iced Coffee Toddy
I like to call this "the secret to success". We cold brew a special blend of roasts for 24 hours; giving it a smoother taste, more caffeine and a lower acidity level which makes it easier on your tummy. It's a great way to start your day with a charge.

Gingerade
Our special blend of Ginger, Orange Juice, Raw Sugar, Fresh Lemon and Lime Juice along with Cloves and Cinnamon make this beverage as nourishing as it is delicious.

Cucumber Agua Fresca
The name says it all! This is a simple blend of Agave, Cucumbers and Fresh Lime Juice. Agua Frescas are a great choice on these hot and muggy Austin summer days.

Watermelon Agua Fresce
  With watermelon in season it only seemed logical to craft an Agua Fresca with this delectable treat. Again, keeping it simple we combine Watermelon, Agave and Lime Juice and boom we have magic!

Hibiscus Mint Tea
Brewed in house, this is a refreshingly floral beverage. Did you know that Hibiscus actually contains properties that cool your body down when it is hot?

Unsweetened and Sweetened Black Tea
Whether you prefer your Black Tea sweet or unsweetened i think we can all agree that this beverage is a summer staple in the South. We brew our unsweetened Black Tea in house and the good folks at Moonshine are providing us with Sweet Tea, just add a lemon wedge and you're instantly on your front porch in a rocking chair.

Whichever your favorite becomes or already is, we in the Deli are committed to have all of these beverages ready and waiting to be enjoyed so come on by to the Deli and get refreshed!

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Staff Bike to Work Riders

Bike Month is here! Whether you ride every day rain or shine or if you are just thinking about starting to ride, I think we can all agree it’s the perfect time to be on a bike. For a lot of us at Wheatsville (myself included), biking is how we get around. Austin is such a beautiful, bike-friendly city how could you resist the urge to cycle?

Cyclists, like their bikes, come in all different shapes and sizes: weekend mountain bikers, BMX tricksters, triathlon trainers, fixie kids, beach cruisers, tall bike dare devils, and the list goes on.
In view of Austin’s diverse cycling community, we thought it would be cool to sit down and talk with some Wheatsville staff folks who love to bike.

Alex Durant

  1. What was the first bike you ever rode? A little blue Schwinn that my parents got me for Christmas when I was about 5 years old, funny thing is, I didn’t learn how to ride it until 4th or 5th grade.
  2. What kind of bike do you ride now? A 1985 Trek 620 that I tour on and get groceries with and a mid eighties Mlyata 914, that’s my around town zippy whip.
  3. How long is your commute to Wheatsville? 20 minutes
  4. What is your favorite snack for a long ride? Bananas are crucial. Otherwise anything covered in peanut butter.
  5. How far was the longest ride you’ve done so far? Longest in one day was 116 miles while touring down the East Coast in North Carolina. In total cycling from Oregon to New York to Georgia to here was just about 8,000 miles.
  6. What are your favorite places to ride to/through in Austin? The ride to Barton Springs for a dip is always a good one. Another great ride is out to Bull Creek Park, that route has one of the gnarliest hills in Austin, otherwise I use the city bike map and see where I end up.

Reva Mosqueda

  1. What was the first bike you ever rode?My first bike was a pink sparkly Schwinn, it had a banana seat and sissy bars.
  2. What kind of bike do you ride now? A Raleigh Capri 30, she’s my sweet lil’ thang.
  3. How long is your commute to Wheatsville? About 5 miles
  4. What is your favorite snack for a long ride? During the summer when I go on rides I take a fanny pack full of snacks! Usually a couple carrots, some pecans and fruit leather.
  5. How far was the longest ride you’ve done so far? 55 miles
  6. What are your favorite places to ride to/through in Austin? I really enjoy riding up north; I’ll take Shoal Creek to Spicewood then Jollyville and end up by the Arboretum. Also, recently I rode to Manor with a few co-workers; it was pretty cool to be so close to the city but also so close to the country.

Eric Lambert

  1. What was the first bike you ever rode? A black Huffy with a banana seat.
  2. What kind of bike do you ride now? A Surly Long Haul Trucker, Fuji Sagres, Mondonico, and a Francesco Moser
  3. How long is your commute to Wheatsville? 3.5 Miles
  4. What is your favorite snack for a long ride? Bananas and Wheatsville Rice Crispy Treats
  5. What’s the longest ride you’ve done so far? 50 miles
  6. What are your favorite places to ride to/through in Austin? Shoal Creek, Jollyville and Mount Bonnell

Austin Marsh

  1. What was the first bike you ever rode? A blue Huffy BMX
  2. What kind of bike do you ride now? A specialized BMX named “Moby Dick”.
  3. How long is your commute to Wheatsville? 4.5 Miles
  4. What is your favorite snack for a long ride? Blueberry Crisp Clif Bars
  5. What’s the longest ride you’ve done so far? 30 miles
  6. What are your favorite places to ride to/through in Austin? Exploring new places that I’ve never been to.
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