UT Arlington gets Down to Earth | Finally, a vegan place on campus + a giveaway!

“The best feeling is when my customers tell me they feel the love I put into my cooking. The mission of Down to Earth is to bring you good food that’s good for you!”

— Alma Rangel, founder of Down to Earth

My university, UT Arlington, hasn’t always been the best place for vegans, vegetarians, or earth and health conscious folks. Having been a student there for almost a decade (yes, I’m in grad school now), I’ve seen it all–the struggle of choosing a bruised banana or a greasy hashbrown for morning fuel was real. I remember at orientation, I made my first friend over a sad/hilarious vegan bonding experience over the slim pickings at the salad bar. We rallied with other forward thinkers (veg and non-veg!), advocating for more plant-based options on campus in various ways, earning unanimous support from Student Congress.

resolution

Photo courtesy of Richard Hoang (The Shorthorn).

Options got better overall, but they weren’t particularly amazing or consistent. La Blue Casa had a great run at College Park, until it went down in an unfortunate turn. If you wanted vegan tacos, your best bet would be to make your own (which we did). Now, with the arrival of Down to Earth at College Park, students can get a variety of vegan tacos and other authentic, plant-based Mexican fare on demand. Read to the end to find out how you can win a free meal at Down to Earth!

Tacos and Lime.jpg

Down to Earth offers a variety of taco fillings, including nopalitos (cactus), calabacitas (Mexican squash), spicy sweet potato and black beans, and aguacate a la Mexicana (avocado fans rejoice)!

Continue reading

My Weekend | Geocaching + The Texas State Fair

This weekend, I went to a geocaching event and the Texas State Fair (for the first time)!

I first went geocaching a couple of months ago when I was assigned a story about it for The Shorthorn.

Geocaching is a global activity that can take place anywhere at any time. Participants of this outdoor hobby follow GPS coordinates to find destinations that hold geocaches, also known as caches, which are found all over the world.

Geocaching is a unique adventure because it often directs the searcher to places they would not have known about otherwise. Students who want to know the campus better can go on a geocache hunt to find out what they could be missing.

Originally published on The Shorthorn, UT Arlington’s student news website, on October 16, 2013. 

This Saturday, I had the chance to go geocaching again, while helping the environment. A few Environmental Society members and I volunteered with the Southwest Arlington Geocachers group at their “Cache In, Trash Out” event. Participants of event cleaned up litter along two miles of Cooper street, with geocaching as a bonus activity.

My friends and I did some geocaching, while being attacked by giant mosquitoes, but we were more focused on picking up trash. After the event, my friend Jenny and I went thrifting and relaxed with lunch at Loving Hut. They brought back the nachos from their old menu! I’m so excited. They’re actually bringing back a lot of old menu items lately.

The Cache In, Trash Out event was productive, and The Environmental Society is definitely considering volunteering more at these kinds of activities in the future. Join their Facebook to stay updated!

VEGAN STATE FAIR FOOD (6)On Sunday, I went to the Texas State Fair with my friend Camille and her dad. Normally I wouldn’t go to the State Fair, but we wanted to check out the vegan options–we were pleasantly surprised, to say the least. I tried a corn dog and a burger, among other things. I’m working on a more detailed blog post about that, so come back on Tuesday to read more about it!

What did you do this weekend? Vegans, would you go to the State Fair if you knew there were good quality vegan options?

This week is going to be busy for me, with work, projects and a midterm. I hope it all
goes by quickly so we can get to the weekend–I’m particularly excited about going to the Veggie State Fair! The Vegan Club is carpooling to the event, so if any UTA students are interested in joining us, please contact us on Facebook.

Hope everyone has a great week!

Vegan options at PhoXpress are available and expanding

6/10/13: Dear readers, the vegan options at PhoXpress are somewhat limited now, as of late Spring 2013–please scroll all the way down for the detailed update!

I must say that I am extremely picky about my phở, and most Vietnamese dishes in general. I blame the fact that I grew up in a Aulacese (Vietnamese) household full of food enthusiasts. 

I have heard horror stories about vegan phở at non-vegan establishments. The worst case scenarios recounted to me often resembled the following description, more or less: a bowl of rice noodles in salty broth, laden with MSG and some lettuce. To call that sad scene “phở” is a culinary crime and an insult to the taste-buds. I can’t even process the lack of effort–a complex, aromatic broth is the key to any phở, vegan or not.

PhoXpress set up

Phở condiments!

Based on such descriptions alone, let alone my Viet foodie background, I decided long ago that I would avoid eating phở outside my own home altogether. However, in the past month, I have tiptoed, quite warily, might I add, into giving a couple of places a chance.

Continue reading