Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Vegan Eats!

Hey y'all! Sorry I didn't blog last night, but Sunday night was kind of like Saturday night since I was off work for Memorial Day, so I took another day off blogging. I had such an action-packed weekend. I ran a half-marathon, which was pretty much the highlight, but I'll post all about that tomorrow and Wednesday. I have tons of pre-race and post-race food photos to share. I also painted my guest bathroom (which Paul calls his bathroom), went to Memphis' inaugural 901 Fest, and grilled out with friends.

I'll start with that grill-out update tonight and work backwards with race posts tomorrow! My friend Andy invited some friends over to grill for Memorial Day. Historically, my best friend Greg and I ALWAYS grilled out together on Memorial Day as the official kick-off to the summer, but Greg moved to Indiana, so I'm glad Andy invited me over or else I'd have had no one to grill with. Paul had to work today since Memorial Day is a big day for car dealers. Here's the crew that gathered at Andy's. In the back left is our friend Mike. Andy's the bald guy. Pam's on the right, and the dude in the middle is Andy's boyfriend Patrick. Andy's mom came too, but she went home before we took the pic.


That fluffball in the foreground is Andy's dog Bella. She's awesome. Here's a better pic.


Andy and Patrick aren't vegan, so they cooked meat on their big grill. They bought a smaller tabletop grill for the vegans. Pam and I are vegan, and Mike is a pescatarian (but he ate totally vegan tonight). We had SO MUCH FOOD. Here's my plate — veggie dog on a whole wheat bun, half a Tofurky Italian sausage, bunless veggie burger with Daiya vegan cheddar and fixins, Beanfield's nacho chips, Lundberg smoky maple rice chips, and grilled squash and zucchini.


After I snapped this pic, Andy threw some roasted corn on my plate.


I ate ALL OF THAT (minus about half my hot dog bun because I was starting to get full). And I somehow found room throughout the evening for three beers. I started with this Coney Island Hard Orange Cream Ale. LOVE this stuff! I'm not usually a fan of sweet booze, but this one tastes so much like real orange cream soda (my fave soda). I can only drink one before it gets too sweet though.


Next up, enjoyed with my food, was this New Belgium Heavy Melon. It's a watermelon lime ale, which sounds nasty. But it's actually really delicious and refreshing. It's not sweet at all, more like a light summery beer with a hint of watermelon rind. Look at Bella photo-bombing!


And finally, after dinner, I enjoyed a Goldcrest 51. This is a throwback beer based off a recipe from the Tennessee Brewery, a now-defunct brewing company that was located across from where my office is now in downtown Memphis. A beer fan in Little Rock acquired the original recipe, and now he's having it brewed and canned. It's good stuff — a solid lager that's just right for summer grilling.


Hope you had a great Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Vegan Cuts Snack Box Review!

I've long been a fan of Vegan Cuts, the monthly vegan box subscription service and seller of discounted vegan products. I used to subscribe to their beauty box (4-5 full- and sample-sized products a month), but I swapped that out for a Goddess Provisions box a few months back (which, by the way, is run by the same couple who runs Vegan Cuts) simply because my budget doesn't allow for two box subscriptions. I'm also fortunate to be a Vegan Cuts Ambassador, meaning if people use the links on the Vegan Cuts ads on the right side of this page (or this link right here!) to buy products, I make a buck or two.

In fact, Vegan Cuts and Goddess Provisions are the only companies I work with for advertising on this blog. I've hung out with owners Jill and John at Vida Vegan Con (we did karaoke ... okay, well, we watched other people do karaoke). They're super-nice people, and their businesses are small, vegan-owned companies that I'm proud to promote and support.

Anyway, Vegan Cuts occasionally gives out a handful of snack boxes to its ambassadors to review. I was chosen as one of the lucky reviewers this time! My snack box arrived early this week!



So much goodness in here! It's been awhile since I've received a snack box, and Vegan Cuts has REALLY stepped up their game since then. I was blown away by the number and quality of products. 13 things!! There was an Enjoy Life Choco Loco Chewy Bar, a Ginny Bakes Love & Nuts bar, an Earnest Eats granola bar, Eat Whatever mints, Vibrant Health matcha chocolate protein powder, Lazy Susan's Granola, Jalapeno Skinny Pop, Pico de Gallo Beanfield's chips, Made in Nature ancient grain & rice meal, Pacific oat milk, High Brew cold brew coffee, Chili-Lime Dang coconut chips, and chocolate mint Home Free cookies! Whew! Lots of stuff.

I haven't had a chance to try everything yet, but I'm quickly working through my box. I loved the idea of the cold brew coffee in a can. It's so rare to find a lightly sweetened, dairy-free coffee to go. This only has 20 calories and the slightest hint of sweetness. And it's black, which is awesome. I chilled this and had it on the way to work one morning.


My dad and I both are huge fans of Dang toasted coconut chips, but I'd only ever had the plain, bacon, and caramel sea salt flavors. The chili-lime was new to me, and I think it's my favorite of them all. It's sweet and savory and spicy and tangy. I need to find more of these for my dad to try!


I'm slightly obsessed with breath mints. I always carry some sort of mint or gum in my bag, so I was excited to try these Eat Whatever mints. It's a two-step system. First, you swallow the vegan gel cap, which has peppermint and parsley oil inside. That's supposed to help with long-term freshening. Then, you eat the white mint for instant freshness. I tried this, and it kind of worked for about 15 minutes or so. 


I had the Love & Nuts fruit and nut bar before a board meeting on Tuesday night. It was loaded with all sorts of dried fruit (I remember lots of coconut) and nuts, and it kept me satisfied for a couple hours before I could get dinner. Really loved this bar!


The Skinny Pop is probably my favorite snack in the box. I'm a popcorn-aholic, and I love jalapeno-flavored anything. I will definitely be buying more of this!


There was one "snack" that wasn't really a snack at all. The Made in Nature Cuban Mojo Ancient Grain Fusion pouch was actually a meal! It's a mix of grains (including forbidden rice, hence the color), legumes, and mojo sauce, and you simply microwave the pouch for 60 seconds. It was supposed to be two servings, but it was one for my appetite. I had this for lunch today with added baked balsamic tofu, fresh sprouts, and tomato.


I have a few snacks left to try! Saving the chips, oat milk, granola, and the rest of the bars to pack for Bonnaroo, which is coming up in a few weeks. The oat milk will be great in my campsite coffee in the mornings (or maybe I'll have it with the granola as a Bonnaroo breakfast). I'm probably gonna down those gluten-free chocolate mint cookies asap (tomorrow?). And the protein powder will find its way into a smoothie very soon. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Best Vegan Bacon Bits Ever!

I have a new favorite bacon bit! I'm kind of obsessed with bacon bits, and I'm a firm believer that a salad without them is just lettuce in a bowl. I've tried many a vegan bacon bit in my day — coconut bacon, whole grain bacon, Bac-O's (yes, they're vegan), chopped plant meat bacon, TVP bacon. And those are all delicious. But there's a new bit in town, and it's made from pinto beans. And it's my new fave!


Cool Foods has come out with a line of bacon bits made from air-dried pinto bean pulses. They're gluten-free, gmo-free, and contain nothing artificial. In fact, the ingredient list is just pinto beans, sunflower oil, natural flavors, sea salt, and enzymes. They sent me a package to review, and I instantly fell in love. The bits are very crunchy, as a good bacon bit should be. And there's a slight pinto flavor that actually tastes more like real bacon than any other fakin' bacon I've tried.

They're so good that it's hard not to eat them straight from the package, but I had to have some on a salad to get the full effect.


I also added some to my Annie's Vegan Shells & Creamy Sauce (the new Annie's vegan mac made with pumpkin and sweet potato). The mac was good on its own, but the bacon bits stepped it up a few more notches because that's just what bacon bits do.


I love these bits so much that I've already ordered two more bags, and I'm not even out yet. I've found the Cool Foods website tends to be sold out of bacon bits quite often. I checked a couple weeks back, and they were sold out of every flavor. Today, when I ordered more, only one flavor (the Hickory Style) was available. By the way, these also come in Country Maple and Chili Pepper, but they seem to be sold out every time I check. 

Hopefully, Cool Foods will be able to step up and produce more bacon bits to keep up with demand! These are just too good to be sold out all the time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

1980s-Style Vegan Nut Loaf

Veganism has come a LONG way since the 1970s and '80s. Well, I wasn't even born yet in the '70s, but I've heard about those dark days. I did go vegetarian in a small Arkansas town in 1994, so that was kind of close, right? Back then, there was no Field Roast, no Gardein, no Miyoko's Creamery cheese, or Daiya shreds. When I went veg, we did have a few products from Boca and Morningstar Farms (they contained eggs, but that was okay when I was lacto-ovo), so things had progressed a little by then.

But I think back to the days of the Farmies — the members of the vegan Farm commune/intentional community in Middle Tennessee — in the 1970s and 80s. When they wanted plant meat, they had to make it themselves using tofu or nuts. They made seitan from scratch using plain, all-purpose flour (which, by the way, I have done, and it takes FOREVER but tastes amazing), and they even fermented their own tempeh. I love perusing the old Farm cookbooks for retro recipes.

Anyway, a big staple for vegans in the 80s was nut loaf, the hippie version of meat loaf. I'm still slowly developing recipes for my vintage vegan cookbook project. Who knows when I'll get done? I'm done setting deadlines and timetables because that makes it way less fun. This week, I got inspired to create a retro Vegan Nut Loaf for the book. Served here with vegan bacon cheddar mashed potatoes (from Baconish) and cabbage fried in a little faux bacon-flavored olive oil.


This has a base of walnuts, cashews, and breadcrumbs, and it's all held together with good old-fashioned flax egg (none of that newfangled egg substitute in this recipe!). Keepin' it real.


Vegan Nut Loaf
------------------------------
Yields 8 servings

1 cup walnuts
1 cup raw cashews
2 cups whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. dried tarragon
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. ground flax seed + 6 tbsp. water
1 cup water
1 cup tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Grind the walnuts and cashews into a fine powder in a food processor or coffee grinder. If using a coffee grinder, you'll need to grind them in batches.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground nuts, breadcrumbs, onion, herbs, salt, and pepper. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the ground flax and water and set aside for a couple minutes until the mixture is thick. 

Stir the flax mixture into the nut mixture. Add the one cup of water and stir to combine. At this point, you'll need to get your hands in and knead the mixture into a dough.

Press the loaf into the loaf pan, and use your hands to even out the top. Bake for 20 minutes uncovered. Remove from the oven and top with tomato sauce, and then bake for 30 more minutes uncovered. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so, and slice into 8 slices.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Make Your Own Powdered Peanut Butter!

This is yet another post inspired by my favorite veganism/feminism/punk/fitness podcast, Rise & Resist. When I like something, I really like it. And I get so many great ideas and so much inspiration from hosts Lacy and Holly. I won't gush too much about the show since I've done so in previous posts, but if you're not familiar with the podcast, check it out on iTunes. 

Anyway, at the end of each show, there's a segment called One-Rep Snax (like One-Rep Max, get it?), where Lacy and Holly share their favorite thing they've been eating lately. On one of the older shows (which I just recently listened to), Holly mentions that you can build your own PB Lean powdered peanut butter at MyOatmeal.com with all sorts of flavors and sugars and vegan protein powders. I've long been a fan of PB2 (the low-fat powdered peanut butter) for smoothies and stirring into oats, so I just had to try this custom version. I went to the site and got to work creating, and about a week later, this arrived in the mail.


Of course, as the name of the site implies, you can also build custom oats with various fruits and nuts and flavors. But I haven't tried that yet. I did have a ton of fun customizing my PB Lean. I named mine Magic Maple Brown Sugar PB Lean because I chose maple and brown sugar flavors, plus I added real brown sugar and vegan rice protein.


All of their flavors are vegan, and some are pretty wild — deep fried ice cream, old fashioned glazed doughnut, cake batter, lemon meringue, graham cracker crust, red velvet cake, etc. Next time, I'll try something crazy, but I wanted to be cautious with my first order to make sure I didn't end up with something gross. I figured I couldn't go wrong with maple and brown sugar. You can also add chopped nuts and dried fruits, but I wanted mine to be smooth and creamy, so I left those out.

If you're not familiar with powdered peanut butter, it's basically defatted peanut butter powder. You mix it with water and it turns into a spread.


Now, I should take this opportunity to say that I have no problem at all with regular peanut butter. I'm not oil-free or anti-fat or anything, but I think powdered PB is great for mixing into liquids, like smoothies or yogurts or even pancake batter. Also, some days, it's just nice to have as a spread to mix things up. I had some straight up on an English muffin for breakfast recently, and it was delicious. The maple and brown sugar flavor is strong, and it tastes like pancakes! 


Because I added rice protein (totally optional!), my PB Lean has 10 grams of protein per two tablespoons. It does give the spread a slightly chalky mouthfeel, like most protein powders do, but I don't mind that. If you're weird about protein powder, you can always leave that out. They also have hemp protein as an option, and that might be different. Since the powder is defatted, two tablespoons has 124 calories and 2 fat grams rather than the traditional 200 calories and 8 fat grams in two tablespoons of regular PB.

It's especially delicious mixed into oats! This morning, I had a bowl of oats with PB Lean and maple-agave pancake syrup. Divine! I wish I was eating that again right now.


I can't wait to try making more flavor combos. And eventually, I want to try the custom oats too! The prices are a little expensive when you factor in shipping. I paid about $11 (including shipping) for an 8-ounce bag, but the more add-ins, flavors, and such you choose ups the cost. So you can always go simple and save money. MyOatmeal.com also has a few featured flavors of PB Lean and oats for those who'd rather let the professionals do the work!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Super Tasty Anti-inflammatory Kitchen

In the past couple months, I've become a bit obsessed with the Rise & Resist podcast. It's a podcast about fitness, feminism, and veganism, which are all of my favorite things combined into one podcast! Like the nerdy fangirl that I am, I've gone back and listened to every episode — mostly enjoyed during my long runs and a couple of recent road trips.

It's hosted by Lacy Davis (of Super Strength Health) and Holly Noll (of the body-posi, vegan gym NewEthic Strength & Conditioning in Oakland). Holly is also the mastermind behind my other recent obsession — FitQuick protein waffles. While listening to the Rise & Resist meal planning episode, I learned that Lacy has an e-cookbook focused on anti-inflammatory foods. I've got a half-marathon coming up next weekend, and I'm always battling a little runner's knee and hip bursitis — both inflammatory conditions. So I ordered the book!

The Super Tasty Anti-inflammatory Kitchen is co-written by Lacy and Melissa Lacitignola. Each chapter focuses on one anti-inflammatory food and includes a breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert recipe using that food. There are chapters on ginger, turmeric, berries, chilies, almonds and walnuts, and leafy greens. Since my race is coming up, I've been loading up on anti-inflammatory foods and making quite a few recipes from the book.

I started with this Turmeric Mango Smoothie — lettuce, fresh ginger and turmeric, banana, mango, and plant milk. I added a scoop of Vega One Natural protein powder since I had this after a morning run. I love the sneaky greens in this smoothie! Also, it's loaded with fresh turmeric, which I'd never used before. The turmeric has a mild flavor, so the mango really dominated.


In the episode of Rise & Resist where Lacy mentions that she has an e-book, she and Holly were discussing sauces to use over veggies or bowls. Lacy rattled off the ingredients in her ginger-miso sauce, and it sounded delicious. That's when I knew I needed to order the book! So of course, I had to make the recipe that uses that sauce — Dinosaur Kale Salad with Ginger-Miso Dressing. This is an oil-free kale salad, but the kale is still massaged with the ginger-miso sauce. It also has carrots, red bell pepper, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I added baked tofu for extra protein. Delicious! And so healthy!


I knew that ginger and turmeric were great for inflammation, but I wasn't aware that almonds were anti-inflammatory foods. That's great news because I love almonds! One of the snacks in the book are super-simple Sprouted Almonds — almonds soaked in water overnight to break up the nuts' natural enzyme inhibitors. I had these as a morning snack at my desk at work.


I was also surprised to learn that leafy greens were anti-inflammatory foods. I eat something green almost daily — salads with romaine or sauteed kale or spinach or chard. But the more greens, the better! I had this Raw PB&J as a pre-yoga snack before my night class last week. The spread is actually almond butter (not peanut butter), and it's mixed with banana and topped with fresh, muddled strawberries. The recipe recommends using a kale leaf, but that sounded too hardcore for me, so I opted for romaine. Perfect thing to keep me satisfied through an hour of yoga, and then I had a full dinner when I got home.


So far, I've mostly shown you raw (or mostly raw) recipes from the book. There are a lot of raw dishes. But there are plenty of cooked meals too! Tonight, I selected the Chana Masala from the chapter on chiles. It called for cayenne powder, which I added. But I upped the anti-inflammatory factor (and spice factor) by adding a chopped serrano chile as well. I love how many veggies are in this chana masala — carrots, bell pepper, broccoli, onions, garlic, ginger! The flavor was spot-on, thanks to toasted whole mustard and cumin seed and coconut cream. And you can see from the color that there was plenty of anti-inflammatory turmeric in there too.


Since I've been making an effort to eat anti-inflammatory foods daily, I have noticed less knee pain. And thus, I've not been popping as many anti-inflammatory pills lately. I'd much rather get my pain relief in the form of food rather than drugs. That said, there are times when nothing works better than ibuprofen. But if I can keep pain at bay with food, I will! 

Love this book, and I've got lots more recipes from it on my to-make-soon list. Walnut & Pumpkin Seed Tacos! Blueberry Flatbread with Almond Cheese & Fresh Basil! Ginger Turmeric Ice Cream! Kale & Quinoa Minestrone!

The e-book is just $9.99 on Lacy's blog! Here's the link if you're interested.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Stuff I Ate

Here are some random meals I've been eating lately — in no particular order.

My office is downtown, and last Friday was day two of the World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest downtown. It's a massive and very non-vegan event that attracts barbecue cooks from all over the world. It's really awful. Throughout the fest, the air around my office reeks from the smell of barbecue (and I can't help but think of all those poor pigs), and the area around our office basically becomes a giant parking lot. So, thankfully, our office has a tradition of closing at noon on BBQ Fest Friday every year because parking for our employees becomes next to impossible. And since we were off at noon, my editor Susan and I decided to hit up our favorite Vietnamese buffet at Pho Binh.

For less than $10 at Pho Binh, you can fill your lunch plate with as much tofu as you want! There is a little meat on the buffet, but most of the dishes are vegan. Last Friday, they had their standards — Green Beans with Tofu, Curry Tofu, and (my very favorite) Lemongrass Tofu. Pho Binh's lemongrass tofu is legendary.


The new Just Mayo dressings (including the ranch!!) are available at our Target here in Memphis now, and they were on sale last week for $3 a bottle. I picked up Just Ranch and Just Sweet Mustard (like a vegan honey mustard dressing). I'd tried the ranch once before when it came out on a limited release last year, and it's AMAZING. But I immediately cracked open the Sweet Mustard when I got home from Target and whipped up this messy Big Ole Dinner Salad with chickpeas and dried cranberries and lots of veggies. The mustard dressing is the best! It's just like the creamy honey mustard I remember from my pregan days.


I've been eating a lot of Miyoko's Creamery cheese lately — the stash I brought back from Little Rock since it's still not available here. This is the Garlic-Herb Cheese (made with aged cashews) with fig jam and crackers.


My strawberry plants are making strawberries like crazy! I was craving chocolate one day earlier this week, so I topped So Delicious Cashewmilk Creamy Chocolate Ice Cream with Fresh Strawberries, Chocolate Syrup, and CocoWhip. So good!


Are you tired of seeing protein waffle pics yet? Too bad! I had another FitQuick Birthday Cake Protein Waffle this morning topped with maple-agave syrup, Miyoko's Creamery Cultured VeganButter, and CocoWhip. These waffles have 22 grams of protein!


And here's a FitQuick Pizza Waffle stuffed with fancy olives and spinach and topped with marinara and Follow Your Heart vegan parm. I'm basically obsessed with FitQuick Protein Waffles. Yes, they're expensive, but the cost for a bag of 8 servings is about equal to the cost of protein powder in the same amount (and protein powder is also very expensive, but I view it a necessity during training season).


Speaking of breakfast, have y'all had this Califia Farms Better Half creamer yet? OMG! I picked it up on a whim at Whole Foods, and it's my new fave thing. It's sooooooooo thick and creamy because it's mostly pure coconut cream. Makes for very creamy coffee!


For Mother's Day, my mama made Vegan Dumplins (like chicken and dumplins but without the chicken), hash brown casserole, vegan dressin', and green beans. I blogged about that awhile ago. But last week, I had some leftover dumplins, and I'd been eating leftovers for a few days. So I decided to mix it up a bit by adding Soy Curls to the dish. I still love my mama's dumplins plain (without any plant meat) the best when they're fresh, but on day four, the Soy Curls were a nice addition.


I guess I've been eating a lot of brown food. I didn't realize that until I started putting this together. Well, here's something green for you. On Tuesday night, Memphis' Planned Parenthood put on the first event in a monthly series called Beers with Pioneers, where local feminist icons talk about their fight for women's rights while guests drink free beer and chow down on food truck fare. It was in my neighborhood, and feminism, beer, and food trucks are all my favorite things! Fuel Food Truck was there, so I got the Vegan Tacos (Fuel's homemade veggie burger crumbles, vegan cheddar, vegan sour cream, onions, lettuce, and lots of avocado) and a free Ghost River beer.


Okay, I've saved the best for last. Cause today I had TOTCHOS! That's right — tater tot nachos. My friend Cassi sells them at Pink Diva Cupcakery. The tots are piled high with vegan cheese, black beans, brown rice, lettuce, salsa, onions, and sour cream. I don't order this often because it's a lot of food, and I cannot stop eating tots once I start. I ate all of these tots for lunch today. And I counted. There were 30.