Monday, October 20, 2014

Birthday Pizza Party!

Last birthday post, I swear!* Yesterday, I drove to Jonesboro, where my family lives, to celebrate my 34th birthday (it was last Thursday) with my parents and grandmas. I asked my mom to make pizza! When I arrived at their house, she'd already set up a build-your-own pizza station.


There were Daiya mozzarella shreds, veggie burger crumbles, artichoke hearts, black olives, roasted garlic cloves, red onions, jalapenos, bell peppers, mushrooms, and Italian seasoning. I put all the things on my pizza!


As the pies baked, we had side salads. Mine has tomato, onion, olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and blush wine vinaigrette.


My pizza was fantastic! My parents and Granny had a non-vegan meat and cheese pizza, but they also tried slices of mine. My daddy said the vegan pizza was "pretty good." He and my mama are learning to like vegan cheese! And Granny always likes everything, vegan or not.


After dinner, it was present time! My parents got me a skull shirt, a winter hat, an Origami Owl necklace, and some extra-hot muscadine sauce (for tofu bastin'). And they also got me this!!!!


I am now the proud owner of a freakin' Vitmix. I'm gonna blend EVERYTHING! I used it to make a smoothie this morning, and it pulverized my frozen strawberries in seconds. I can't wait to try the hot soups setting, and I can't wait to make extra-creamy cashew cheese in it.

After presents, it was time for cake! Granny made a vegan Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Buttercream & Coconut. This was so delicious and nutty. Almost like eating straight out of the peanut butter jar. I had a leftover slice with almond today, and it was just perfect.


Later in the day, we drove over to the nursing home where my Me-Maw is temporarily staying. She just had hip surgery, so she has to stay in the home until December.


Overall, I had a lovely birth week!! Great actual birthday on Thursday loaded with delicious food and friends, a fur-tastic cat party on Friday, and quality family time on Sunday!

* I lied about this being the last birthday post! Next weekend, my bestie Sheridan is coming to town from Little Rock for a belated birthday celebration. So I'll have to bring up my birthday one more time! #sorrynotsorry

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Fur-tastic Birthday Meowabration!!

This past Friday night, my friends Vaughan and Nicole hosted my birthday party at their new house. I'm a sucker for a theme, and I'm all about cats right now (and always have been and always will be). So my theme was CATS! Everyone had to come dressed as a cat, and if they didn't have a cat costume, one was provided. Vaughan and Nicole have an amazing costume collection!

Here are a few of the cat girls!


And here's my whole look. My ears are made out of hair!!! And my leggings don't match at all, but look! Cats!!!


As usual, my professional vegan baker friend Stephanie (a.k.a. Poopie Bitch) made my cake. I'm so lucky to have a vegan baker friend! This was traditional birthday cake flavor, vanilla on vanilla — my fave.


I tried to make a few cat-themed party snacks. I mixed some green onion dip mix with Tofutti sour cream and called it Catnip Dip.


And I attempted to make cat-shaped soft pretzels, but um, they didn't turn out so cat-like. Tasty though. I used the boxed Auntie Anne's pretzel mix. It's vegan.


I also used some pretzel dough to wrap vegan hot dogs for Cat Tails. But I accidentally deleted the picture in my phone! Here are the cat tails are on the table with the rest of the snacks Vaughan provided — Guacamole (his guac is so good!), Roasted Pine Nut Hummus, Mixed Nuts, Grapes, and Veggie Straws.


I even drank cat-themed beer. I found this Indian Tiger beer at the Cash Saver. Just a traditional light lager. Not the best beer, but hey, it had a Tiger on it. I had the beer manager Taylor helping me look for beers with cats on the label, and there aren't many. There seems to be beers with every other animal but not cats. Someone needs to fix that.


My friends even got me cat-themed gifts! I got a kitty Chia Pet, a space cat dress, a cat tarot deck, cat magnets, and lots of other cool stuff non-cat stuff. I even got a crazy cat lady purse! (Notice my friend Andy in the background not in costume. He's just a cool cat. No costume needed.)


Friday, October 17, 2014

It's My Birthday!!!!!!

Technically, my birthday ended 15 minutes before I began writing this post, but who's counting? I'm a Libra, and we tend to stretch birthdays out as long as we can. I turned 34 today, so I took the day off work and celebrated with friends, food, and booze. Here's my 34th birthday bathroom selfie. I take one in the mirror every year. Yes, I'm wearing cat ears!


I slept in this morning until 8 a.m.! And then I watched the season two finale of Orange Is the New Black in my PJs while munching on this bowl of Jade Pearl Rice Ramen with Miso Broth, Tofu, and Veggies. 


Then I made some cardamom-infused Turkish Coffee to enjoy while getting ready for the day.


I had lunch at Imagine Vegan Cafe (of course!!) with my friends Pam and Cassi. I ordered the Vegan Memphis platter but subbed out mac & cheese for the baked beans — Vegan BBQ Sandwich with Coleslaw, Fries with Garlic Aioli, Vegan Cheddar Mac.


And I washed it all down with a Southern Prohibition Devil's Harvest American Pale Ale. Mmmmm....


After lunch, I went home and baked some cupcakes while I enjoyed a very spicy vegan bloody mary!


I went to hula-hoop class at 5:45, and then, at 7 p.m., I had to be at my friend Shara's house for our bi-weekly girl's show night. We started American Horror Story Freak Show tonight! Creepiest season yet. I brought some Gluten-Free Mint Chocolate Mint Cupcakes that I made using the new Eat Pastry cake mix. Full review post coming soon!


And I'd asked Shara to make popcorn for my birthday. I love popcorn! And Becca brought lots of raw veggies. The only non-vegan thing on this table was the giant bowl of ranch.


I also drank a Memphis-crafted Wiseacre Tarasque saison at Shara's.


After show night, Paul and I had a couple drinks at Le Chardonnay, and I ordered the Hummus Trio platter. Love their roasted red pepper hummus, and since Paul hates olives, I got to eat ALL THE OLIVES!


It was a happy, happy birthday indeed! But it's not over yet. My official party is happening Friday night, and my family gathering is Sunday. I'll be back with more birthday fun on Sunday!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Veggin' Out — Round Three

Tonight, we had the third in our series of four filmed vegan dinner parties based on the British reality show, Come Dine With Me. On the original show, four strangers each take turns hosting a three-course dinner party at their house for the four of them. After each dinner, the three guests who didn't host score the party on a scale of one to 10. The host with the highest score wins.

My friends Stephanie, Pam, and Megan and myself are taking turns throughout October hosting parties, and Megan's husband and his film friends are documenting each party for YouTube webisodes (coming soon!). And of course, we're scoring each other. Rather harshly, in fact. Hey, it's not a reality show if things don't get bitchy.

I had my party last Friday, and Megan hosted the first one last Wednesday. Tonight was Stephanie's party, and she really brought it. First, we had an amuse-bouche — Cashew Chevre with Balsamic Onion Jam in Filo Cups. She made the cashew chevre from scratch using Miyoko's recipe, and the onion jam was really yummy too.


There was an alcohol pairing with each course! Bonus points! I'm not sure what this was, but it was good. Pomegranate-something?


Here's a behind-the-scenes shot of Megan, Pam, and cameraman Joey before dinner was served.


We started with a Cream of Celeriac Soup with Chive Oil and Green Apple.


And here's Stephanie frantically prepping the main course.


That main course was Black Pepper-Crusted Portabella Steak with Bearnaise Sauce, Smashed Yukon Potatoes, and Haricot Verts (a.k.a. Mushroom Steak with Gravy, Mashed Taters, and Green Beans ... let's just call it what is, people).


Dessert was a Pear Tart with Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and Maple Bourbon Sauce. I may have gone into a food coma after this. That said, I cannot be held accountable for anything bitchy I said during scoring! Haha, kidding. Not kidding.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Going Vegan: The Cookbook

When I went vegan in 2004, there were only a handful of beginner's guides to giving up eggs, dairy, and other animal by-products. For the most part, I had to wing it by piecing together articles from various zines, advice from vegan friends, and random facts from the internet. Now there are so many great guides to help people transition into veganism. I have to say, I'm a little jealous.

One such book — Going Vegan: The Complete Guide to Making a Healthy Transition To a Plant-Based Lifestyle — is the latest work by my bud Joni Marie Newman and Gerrie Lynn Adams.


The book is part info-guide and part recipe book. There's a chapter on going vegan for health with very specific instructions about what to eat daily (one ounce of nuts or seeds, 3-5 servings of fruit, eat only whole grains, etc.). There's a chapter on going vegan for the environment, and most importantly (in my not-so-humble opinion), there's a chapter on going vegan for the animals with touching personal stories of farm sanctuary animals and their former lives on factory farms.

As for the recipes, I was a bit surprised to find the book is totally oil-free. My first thought was, "What?! Joni helped write an oil-free cookbook?" If you're at all familiar with Joni's other books, you know that she doesn't typically shy away from indulgent and delicious recipes that call for oil. In fact, one of the reasons I love her books so much is because she cooks the kind of food I like to eat — decadent, comfort fare that's full of flavor. I'm a firm believer that oil in moderation is good for your health and even better for your soul.

That said, I do appreciate a low-calorie meal. Eating less calories from fat means I can drink one extra beer or have that extra slice of cake. Hey, it's all about balance, right? And if anyone can develop an oil-free recipe and make it taste amazing, it's Joni and Gerrie. Joni wouldn't pass off a recipe that didn't taste amazing, oil or not. And Gerrie lives every day oil-free, so she's mastered the art of oil-free cooking. And some recipes include ingredients that already have a bit of natural oil, so that helps.

Honestly, I didn't miss the oil one bit in these Falafel-logs with Cucumber Relish.


Yes, that's a hot dog-shaped baked falafel. It's the perfect shape for wrapping in a pita "bun" and heaping with cucumber relish. And since the relish (cucumber, tomato, dill, parsley, and garlic) is made with tahini, it's got plenty of good fat without added oil. Even though I typically fry falafel, I really think this one works better baked. It has wheat gluten and chickpea flour in the dough, so it has the texture of a steamed or baked vegan gluten sausage with the taste of falafel. Bonus: The full recipe is on Joni's Just the Food blog!

I also made the Spinach & Artichoke Dip.


I'm used to the Vegenaise-laden spinach dip at Imagine Vegan Cafe (omg, it's so good), but I always feel like I've eaten a million calories after I devour a bowl-full. This oil-free version was a tad tangier than I'm used to, but it really grew on me. And I loved being able to scoop out a giant portion (much bigger than what is pictured in this tiny plate, mind you) and just stuff my face with it, guilt-free.

Going Vegan would be an excellent beginners' guide for someone looking to go vegan for health, especially people who need to be on oil-free diets to reverse serious SAD-diet related illnesses. And it's also just an excellent resource for vegans like me, who want to balance out that extra cupcake or two with a healthy, low-cal meal.

Monday, October 13, 2014

OMG! Vegan Whipped Topping In a Plastic Tub!

I loved Cool Whip when I was a kid. And even in my grown-up pre-vegan years, I enjoyed grabbing a spoon, ripping off the lid of the plastic Cool Whip bowl, and digging in. In my opinion, Cool Whip was better than ice cream. Better than cake. Better than pie. Better than just about any dessert.

Going vegan was tough because I had to give up cheese. But when I realized I would also have to give up Cool Whip, a small part of me died. Over the years, I've experimented with Rice Whip canisters (delicious but the nozzles get clogged and stop working ... bummer), homemade coconut whip (hit or miss depending on the brand of coconut milk and whether or not the milk has emulsifiers), Soyatoo Whippable Soy Topping (great but hard to find), and Rich Whip (vegan but loaded with nasty stuff, like hydrogenated oils).

Enter So Delicious Coco Whip!


Yes, the folks at So Delicous have gone and done it again! They're so innovative, and I am just beside myself with joy about this stuff. It's JUST LIKE COOL WHIP, y'all! Seriously. I can eat it with a spoon!!!!!! And it's actually made with good-for-you stuff instead of nasty hydrogenated oils!


There's a full-fat version and a light version (just as delicious, but a little less dense). For my dinner party last Friday, I cracked open the full fat one for this Vegan Death By Chocolate Cake (layered Kahlua-soaked brownies, chocolate pudding, Coco Whip, and dark chocolate chunks). Here's the recipe.


I'm saving the light stuff for eating by itself with a spoon. And I plan to save both tubs and reuse for leftovers because there's nothing more Southern than serving leftovers in a plastic Cool Whip tub.

Some Whole Foods stores should have Coco Whip now, and So Delicious is planning a larger Whole Foods roll-out by spring 2015. I haven't checked the Memphis store, but we tend to be late in getting things. We just got Kite Hill vegan cheese and Earth Balance cheddar crackers this month! I'm just hoping Coco Whip will be available here soon if it isn't already.

So Delicious also sent me samples of their holiday milks! Nothing says fall and winter like vegan holiday milks. So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk is my favorite this time of year. And since it's higher in calories than my usual almond milk, I like to dilute it — half a cup of Pumpkin Spice and half a cup of almond.



It's also excellent in coffee. Pumpkin Spice lattes! As for the So Delicious Nog Coconut Milk, I don't typically crack that open until after Thanksgiving. It's a little tradition in my house to drink rum-spiked vegan nog as I put up the Solstice tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I hate fall and winter, but nog and other holiday treats get me through it.

Holy crap, y'all, I just had a revelation. I can put a dollop of Coco Whip atop a glass of Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk. Oh, it's on now!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Veggin' Out: Round Two — My Dinner Party!

Last week, I blogged about our first dinner party in a series of four being filmed for YouTube webisodes based on the British show, Come Dine With Me. On the original show, four strangers each take turns hosting a three-course dinner party at their house for the four of them. After each dinner, the three guests who didn't host score the party on a scale of one to 10. The host with the highest score wins.

Well, we're using that concept, but the parties are being hosted by some in our circle of vegan friends — me, Pam, Stephanie, and Megan. Last week, Megan hosted the first party, and her husband Joey and his film-making friends documented the whole thing, complete with catty reality show-style "confessional booth" time.

On Friday night, it was my turn! I'm keeping the details light since we'll be saving the good stuff for our webisodes (I'll be sure and link when they're up!). But here's a sneak peek of the food. Oh, and here's where we ate.


You see, I replaced my old, creaky four-person dinner table for a two-seater bistro table a year ago. So I had nowhere to feed four people. It's a good thing I was going with a "trashy meets bourgeois" theme. I threw some fresh flowers and a tablecloth over my coffee table, and my guests sat on the couch and in lawn chairs. Yep, I'm all class, bitches.

I hadn't planned on an amuse-bouche. But guess what arrived in the mail Friday morning, just hours before my dinner party? A sample box of Miyoko's Creamery nut cheeses! I selected two that paired best with my Southern-style menu. I'll be doing a full review of these cheeses in a few weeks (after I sample all eight cheeses), but here's a glimpse of the Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf and the Aged Smoked Farmhouse. Both of these were AMAZING! I can't wait to tell y'all all about them.


For my first course, I went with the Tofu Deviled Eggy Bites from Cookin' Crunk.


And the Seitan & Red Pear Salad from Cookin' Crunk. I tried to stick with recipes I've made a million times since you don't want to experiment on guests at a dinner party where you're being scored!


For the entree, I served Country-Fried Tempeh Steak, Smoky Slow-Simmered Collard Greens, and Vegan Mac & Cheese with White Truffle Oil. 


The tempeh and greens were from Cookin' Crunk, but I just winged the mac recipe. Basically, it's just a package of Daiya cheddar, some almond milk, Earth Balance, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and a dash of white truffle oil. I really loved the mac, and I will make it again!

I'm saving my dessert pictures for tomorrow night's post because one of the main ingredients is an exciting new product that I've been asked to review (hint: VEGAN COOL WHIP!! OMG!). So be sure and check back tomorrow for a full dessert report.