Thursday, December 13, 2018

Pints for Pigs at Imagine Vegan Cafe!

Imagine Vegan Cafe held an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet fundraiser last night for Pigtopia, a new pig sanctuary just outside Memphis. For $20, you got access to a buffet of deliciousness, and 75% of the proceeds went to help rescued pigs. Win-win!

I'm sort of a buffet pro, so I arrived 30 minutes early to score the best seat in the house (the table closest to the buffet). Jennifer, Simon, Megan, and Melissa joined me a little later. As soon as owner Kristie announced the buffet line was open, I jumped up and got the first spot in line. Because I don't play at a buffet. I also always start with TWO plates so I've got plenty of room for a little of everything. Everyone was laughing at my tactics, but they were all wishing they had two plates once theirs were piled so high. Pro tips, y'all. 

There were sooooo many options!

Including our friend Don's homemade tamales in several flavors.

And little vegan cheesecake bites!

And holiday mini cupcakes!

Here's one of my plates. This one has vegan chicken tenders, hush puppies, spinach dip & corn chips, vegan tofu deviled egg, jerk chicken slider with pineapple & mayo, cheezy scalloped potatoes, and cilantro rice.

And here's the other plate — vegan mac & cheeze, buffalo chicken pizza with ranch, carrots, & celery, vegan chicken & jalapeno tamale, chocolate chip cookie, cheesecake bite with caramel sauce, and chocolate cupcake.

Yes, I ate every bite. No, I didn't go back for more, though I really had to fight myself hard not to. I was full — STUFFED, in fact — so I didn't need more food. But I always struggle to stop eating at a buffet. I'm proud of myself! Also, as the name of the event — Pints for Pigs — implies, there was beer available, and I'd usually be all about that. But I figured beer would fill me up too fast, and I needed that valuable tummy real estate for my food!

The folks from Pigtopia were there. Imagine held a silent auction for them, and Pigtopia sold merch.

And y'all, THEY BROUGHT A PIGGIE! This is Reece's Pieces. He grunts a lot and LOVED the attention. 

But his favorite thing was the free corn chips provided by Imagine's youngest employee, Aspen. 

Anna, who runs Pigtopia, currently has 24 rescue pigs! Here's a little more on what they do (from their website): Pigtopia is a happy safe place for unwanted, abandoned and neglected pigs. They're are a registered 501c3 non profit, and all donations are tax deductible.

Currently there are 24 pigs there, ranging from one year to several years old, with potbellies and big pigs in the mix. Some are permanent residents, and some are available for adoption to the very best, well-screened homes. Every pig that lives there is spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted litters. You can read more and donate (or meet the piggies) on their website. This was the first I'd heard of Pigtopia, and I'm so excited to learn about it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Some Bowls I Ate

Now that the Health Made Simple meal plan is over, I'm finding the healthiest way for me to eat day to day is BOWLS! All you need is a bean, a grain, and a green (and a sauce!), and you've got yourself the quickest, healthiest, and IMO, tastiest meal.

Here are a few bowls I've eaten over the past week. This super-fancy bowl is a recipe from the original No Meat Athlete book (not the cookbook, but the health book with a few recipes — it was recently updated and re-released btw). It's Hawaiian Luau Beans & Rice, and it was so great! A mix of black beans, red cabbage, yellow pepper, and spinach is served over brown rice mixed with toasted coconut. And it's topped off with grilled pineapple rings. Such a treat!

But most of my bowls aren't that fancy. Here's one I made over the weekend with buffalo chickpeas (just chickpeas tossed with hot sauce and garlic powder), sauteed broccoli and squash, quinoa, and cashew ranch. 

And here's another with the same sauteed broccoli and squash over quinoa, but this time, I used Great Northern Beans, tahini sauce (just tahini mixed with nooch, soy sauce, and water), and sriracha. Topped with sesame seeds and Everything But the Bagel seasoning.

Yesterday for lunch, I had a bowl with quinoa, steamed kale, white beans, and tahini sauce, but I forgot to take a pic.

I'm even eating bowls when I dine out! Last night, my parents came over and we picked up takeout in Crosstown Concourse. They were craving Impossible Burgers so they got food to-go from Farm Burger, and I got the Curry Chickpea Bowl from the cafe at Crosstown Arts. This mouth-watering Indian-style curry was made with coconut milk and served atop red rice with a side of grilled pita. By the way, my takeout was served in a takeout box, but here's a pic I snapped earlier in the day of the dish coming out of the kitchen (I manage the social media for the cafe, so I take lots of food pics for work now!).

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Elemento Neapolitan Pizza

The newest restaurant in Crosstown Concourse — the vertical urban village where I work — is Elemento Neapolitan Pizza, and I finally had a chance to try it last night.

Elemento is one of only two authentic Neapolitan pizza places in Memphis (both owned by the same people, but the other one is way out east in Collierville). To qualify as authentic Neapolitan pizza, the pizza must be prepared in a special certified oven that cooks the pizza in 90 seconds or less. Elemento imports its flour from Italy and only uses San Marzano tomatoes.

So do they have vegan options, you ask? Yes! They do not carry vegan cheese, but they're happy to make a traditional Pizza Marinara (the original pizza from Naples that was made without cheese). It's basically a flatbread with fresh tomato sauce and basil, and then you can add whatever veggie toppings you want.

Last night, I added the mushroom mix and kalamata olives — a fine choice!

This was a personal-sized pie, and it was quite large. The crust inside is super-duper thin in the middle, so I found it surprisingly easy to scarf down the whole thing in one meal. But it was still very filling! I also loved how the outside crusts were perfectly chewy and soft, just as pizza crust should be.

Vegans, take note — pizza marinara is not on the menu, but if you order Pizza Margarita with no cheese, that's a Pizza Marinara by definition. Toppings are $1 a piece, and there are lots of veggie options. Elemento also has a nice salad selection, all of which can easily be made vegan by leaving off cheese.

If you want to learn more about Elemento, check out this story I wrote for our Crosstown Concourse newsletter, The Conveyor. Elemento is located inside Crosstown Concourse at 1350 Concourse Ave.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Stuff I Ate — Bagels & Popcorn & Cats (okay, I didn't eat the cat)

Hey y'all! I had the BEST, most productive weekend! Got most of my holiday shopping done, all of my holiday gift crafting done, my house cleaned, and plenty more. It was one of those weekends with no plans — my fave — so I had plenty of time to hole up in my house and work on stuff. 

Okay, I said I had NO plans, but what I really meant was that I had very few plans. I did meet some friends for dinner at Imagine Vegan Cafe on Friday night, so that was one plan. It's been so long since I've indulged in plant meat (aside from the Thanksgiving Field Roast), so I was super-stoked to treat myself to Imagine's Philly Cheesesteak with a side of Collard Greens. The sauteed deli slices were all tucked at the bottom and covered in vegan cheese, so you mostly see bread here. But I promise it was a hearty sandwich.

On Saturday morning, I had a Whole Wheat Bagel Thin with Daiya Cream Cheese and Orange Slices before hitting the gym for a double workout — bootcamp and yoga! I've been working to balance vegan junk foods, like cream cheese, with healthier things, like oranges!

Here's another weekend breakfast. More Bagel Thins with Cream Cheese, paired with Tofu Scramble (the awesome oil-free recipe from Health Made Simple). 

And about that cat! Since I had no plans on Saturday night, I spent the evening cuddled up under a blanket with my cats (this little guy is Gelfling, and he loves a blanket-chair-cuddle night) and a bowl of Popcorn with Nooch while we watched the new season of Making a Murderer. Popped the popcorn in coconut oil. Oil-free is great for many things, but it is not good for popcorn (sorry, not sorry).

Finally, here's my smoothie from this morning. I RAN TODAY! Just two miles, but I did it with zero pain. Even hours later, my foot feels a-okay! After my run, I had a post-workout snack of white rice, and then about an hour later, I had this Cranberry Mixed Berry Smoothie with cranberry juice (not from concentrate), banana, fresh cranberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, flax, and spinach. Very holiday-ish!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Stuff I Ate: Tacos, Banh Mis, & So Much Soup!

I mentioned here last week that one of my favorite vegan-friendly restaurants, Fuel Cafe, is closing on December 22. Super bummed about it. I'm trying to eat there as often as possible before it's too late. Since they've re-did the menu earlier this year, I still hadn't gotten a chance to try the famed vegan Oyster Mushroom Banh Mi, so I fixed that today at lunch with my friend Susan.

This hearty sourdough loaf (baked by my friend Don of Lulu's Baked) is stuffed with pan-fried oyster mushrooms, walnut pate, cilantro, and carrot pickles. AMAZING. Sad that I'll probably never get to eat this again (unless Don serves a version of it at a future pop-up!). Don will continue doing vegan pop-ups in the Fuel space after they close, so that's good news.

Last night, I made the BBQ Tempeh Tacos from Health Made Simple. This super-easy recipe was one of my faves on the plan, and I'll definitely be making it often. You just sautee tempeh in a skillet with BBQ sauce (I used Trader Joe's Carolina Gold) and top with pineapple, cilantro, jalapeno, scallion, and red cabbage. I added some Tofutti sour cream since I had some on-hand.

As part of my job at Crosstown Arts, I manage the social media for our plant-based cafe, Today & Always. That means I sometimes get to try the things I photograph! Today, cafe manager Nicole made this lovely cup of the drink special — Salted Caramel Apple Cider — for a social media photo. And then she let me drink it afterward. This has a vegan salted caramel syrup and coconut whip. SO GOOD.

Yesterday, I had a work meeting at French Truck Coffee, the coffee shop downstairs from my office. I ordered their drink of the month, Masala Cappuccino (made with toasted coconut-almond milk). It had hints of cardamom, vanilla, and black pepper. Very good!

And now for all the soup! On Monday, I didn't have an easy lunch prepared, so I grabbed a box of Pacific Black Bean & Kale Soup to take to the office. This soup is super whole foods-y with only ingredients I recognize!

I had one last serving of Lisa's Tempeh & Rice Gumbo in the freezer from Health Made Simple. Had that for lunch yesterday.

And finally, here's a bowl of RAMEN!!! I finally had my Sunday morning ramen after weeks of not eating ramen on Health Made Simple. But I made this as healthy as possible with Lotus Foods Brown Rice Ramen, tofu, peas, carrots, corn, and spinach. The flavor was miso, so it also had bits of seaweed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Stuff I Ate: Smoothies & Chili 2 Ways

Even though Health Made Simple is over, I'm still eating very healthily at home. I've kept up my morning smoothies. Each day starts with a Larabar and a workout followed by immediate post-workout carbs in the form of white rice or fruit juice. Then, about an hour later, I have my proper breakfast of a green smoothie. Here's a Spinach Colada Smoothie with pineapple, coconut water, banana, spinach, flaked coconut, and walnuts.

And here's a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie with pureed pumpkin, banana, and walnuts. No greens this time. And I added a little Reddi Whip coconut whip because pumpkin NEEDS whipped cream.

I made a great chili for dinner this week. The recipe was from More Fabulous Beans, an older cookbook from Book Publishing Co. (my publisher) by Barb Bloomfield. The recipe was called Kidney Bean Pepper Chili, and it has kidney beans, corn, tomatoes, celery, peppers, and onions, plus dried ancho chiles. The recipe was already low-oil, but I made it oil-free because I rarely cook with oil anymore. Topped with Tofutti sour cream!

Barb is a really cool lady who lives on The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee (where my publisher is located). I've stayed at her house a few times on visits to The Farm (if you're not familiar, it's a former commune-turned-intentional community in Middle Tennessee, and most people there are vegan or vegetarian).

The next day, Paul and I had leftover chili over baked potatoes. Very good!

And here's a bowl I ate last week at my desk at work. It has quinoa, sauteed kale and squash, chickpeas, and tahini dressing.

Monday, December 3, 2018

St. Jude 5K Race Recap

Y'all! I ran a 5K! A few months ago, I crushed 5Ks (or more often 10Ks) for breakfast. But then I fractured my foot AGAIN while training for a 50K, and I've been out of commission since mid-August. I originally signed up to run the St. Jude Memphis Marathon (our largest running event in Memphis) on the day they opened registration back in June. It would have been my third year running the full marathon at St. Jude (and my fourth marathon in total). But after my fracture, I knew 26.2 miles was out of the question.

I bumped my registration down to the 5K on the advice of my doctor. It's incredibly humbling to go from training for a 50K to struggling through a 5K, but I made it! Granted, I walked a good chunk of the race for fear of hurting my foot again.

My foot is still sore at times, and I don't think I'm fully back in business yet. Thinking I should get one more X-Ray before I get back into the game. I'm so grateful that I was able to be part of St. Jude weekend through! This race raises an insane amount of funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which provides free medical treatment for kids with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The race and expo are HUGE, and it's such an exciting time for this city.

When I signed up to race the full, Paul signed up for the same. It would have been his first full marathon, but when he learned I couldn't run it, he chickened out and bumped his registration down to the half (his second!). I was so proud of him for going through with it! And then my friend Megan ran her first 10K at St. Jude, so we actually got to run together for a short bit since the 5K and 10K courses started out together before splitting off.

Megan and I enjoyed our post-race beers together while we waited for Paul. I couldn't believe they had my favorite Wiseacre beer — Tarahumara Dry-hopped Pale Ale (fans of Born to Run will recognize that name!).

When Paul was finally done, we took many selfies.

Here's what I ate on race day. I started the morning (at 4:45 am!) with a bowl of Rolled Oats with Strawberries & Walnuts. I typically add maple, but I was out so I added a teensy bit of sugar. Hey look, it's a picture of me running the St. Jude full marathon last year!

I had a banana right before the run, and then after, I picked up some Veggie Soup from the post-race party. They rarely have any vegan hot food options, so this was nice. Most years at St. Jude, it's freezing and this would have been perfect. But this time, it was about 65 degrees!

I packed a Picky Bar All-in-One Almond Bar in my gear check back, so I had that after my soup (also had another banana and a little free OJ for carbs!). LOVE these bars. They're made with real, whole foods and are designed for athletes.

I also packed some Vegan Rob's Moringa Puffs in my bag because I knew I'd want something salty to snack on. Have y'all tried these? They're so good.

After the run, Paul and I were pooped since we'd gotten to sleep a little too late for an early day. I had a slice of toast with hummus and then napped for about two hours. After I woke up, we tried to go to Fuel Cafe for pizza, but they were so busy that they ran out of dough (now that they're closing, everyone is trying to eat there one last time!). Sadness. Paul actually had been craving grilled cheese anyway, so we went to the Hitone instead.

The Hitone is a rock club best known for cheap PBR and punk rock, not sandwiches. But they recently brought on Josh McLane, a local comedian with some chef skills, and he's added a menu of snacks and sandwiches. Paul got his grilled cheese, and I ordered The Cara (a veggie sandwich with olive tapenade, marinated mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes). 

It comes with pesto and cheese too, but I left off the pesto (most contains parm) and I brought my own vegan cheese from home, which Josh cooked onto my panini. Very good! The white bread and chips were a nice post-run treat and felt very indulgent since I've been eating so well lately! Yay for treats!