Monday, July 27, 2015

Sunday Night Dinner at Pam's

Almost every Sunday morning, my friends and I go out for vegan brunch — usually either at Imagine Vegan Cafe or Irie Vegan Kitchen (inside The African Place). This Sunday was no different. Around 11:30 a.m., we were seated around a table inside The African Place, spiking our fresh watermelon juice (that Cassi us brought from home, made in her juicer!) with vodka and ordering tofu scrambles and such.

While we were eating, Pam mentioned that she'd made an awesome dessert for a vegan potluck on Saturday night that neither of us ended up going to. And she needed help eating it. So she invited Cassi and I over for dinner later. Why not?

After brunch, we parted ways for a few hours and then met back up at Pam's on Sunday night at 7 p.m. She told us not to bring anything, but I really wanted to share some of my most recent review shipment of Miyoko's Creamery cheese. I've done a full review of Miyoko's cheeses before, and some of the flavors they sent are repeats, so I'm using them to develop recipes or, in some cases, I'm sharing with friends and getting their reviews. I brought over the French Style Winter Truffle with some crackers.

This is a soft, spreadable cheese with a strong umami flavor, thanks to the truffle oil and mushrooms. It's one of my top two faves of Miyoko's Creamery cheeses, and it's the one that has the shortest shelf life (fridge life?). So I wanted to share this one first before it went bad. Before dinner, we sat around in Pam's living room and sipped on red wine and nibbled on cheese and crackers. Both Pam and Cassi loved it!

Here's what Cassi had to say: "I love that the texture is creamy and smooth like 'real' cheese. And I love that the hint of truffle is perfectly balanced."

And Pam said: "Tastes awesome. I could eat 20 every day!!!"

Haha, 20 wheels of cheese! Damn, girl. But she's right though. It's that good. We almost filled ourselves up on cheese, so I politely suggested that we move to the dinner table. I could tell prying Pam away from the cheese would be difficult, but we did it. Pam had an amazing spread waiting for us!

For starters, there was Pam's famous (at least in our circle) Asian Cabbage Slaw with Tofu. This has a sesame flavor and lightly fried tofu. It's amazing. 

For the main, there were Balsamic-Marinated Portabella Steaks. So savory!

On the side, we had Green Beans with Whole Grain Mustard. These were crisp and slightly tangy, thanks to the mustard seed.

My very favorite dish of the night was Pam's Vegan Alfredo Zoodles — lightly steamed zucchini noodles with a cashew cream alfredo. So good! I need more zoodles in my life.

No meal is complete without Bread and Earth Balance!

Pam is from Chile, so she loves her red wine. And she kept our glasses full throughout the meal. Here's Pam and Cassi taking a wine break before dessert.

Uh oh, my glass is almost empty here! Don't worry. Pam filled it right back up after this picture was taken.

Finally, it was time for dessert — the whole reason Pam invited us over in the first place. She'd made a ton of Marsala Wine-Spiced Peaces with Cashew Cream Mascarpone. This was so cooling and fresh on this hot summer night. The temps outside were in the 100s, and Pam kept these chilled until serving time. Her mascarpone had just the right level of tanginess and creaminess. And the peaches were spiced with all sorts of things — cinnamon, clove, etc.

I was stuffed, so I took a few bites and packed the rest of my peaches up for a Monday afternoon snack. And just when I thought we were done, Cassi breaks out yet another dessert — Pomegranate Mascarpone-Stuffed Phyllo Cups!

When Pam was discussing her mascarpone dish last week, before the potluck that she ended up not going to, Cassi was inspired to create her own tofu-based mascarpone. She's catering a wedding soon, and she wants to serve these. So we were her guinea pigs. These definitely passed my test! Love the contrast of the crunchy phyllo cup with the cool, creamy, sweet vegan cheese and tangy pom seeds.

I have the greatest friends, y'all! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Big Yoga (and Hula-Hooping) Weekend!

Okay, this is a food blog. But every once in awhile, I like to check in and talk about my workouts. As any regular readers have probably read a million times, I've been dealing with an ugly case of runner's knee since completing the Little Rock Half-Marathon in March. It's getting better, and I'm able to run a little. And one of these days, I WILL run a full marathon.

But the key to staying fit during an injury is to stay active! So I'm still working out six days a week, even though I'm not doing as much running. And two of my favorite workouts are yoga and hooping! And this weekend, I got a couple of fun opportunities to do both. On Friday night, Co-Motion Studio — the hooping studio where I take classes — held a glow-in-the-dark yoga/hooping event called Glo-Motion. It was two 30-minute yoga sessions, one 30-minute hooping class, and a hooping dance party all done under a blacklight with lots of glowsticks and glitter. Kind of a dream come true, right?

My friend Pam and I got all glowed up with glow necklaces, bracelets, anklets, etc.

Our friend Nicole was there doing glow body paint for people.

Here were her designs! Love the Buddha and the lotus!

After painting everyone else up, Nicole painted a unicorn on her own face. She's so talented!

Here's Co-Motion's co-owner/hoop instructor Chloe in her awesome unicorn horn!

And Co-Motion co-owner/hoop instructor Adriene, who did the organizing for the second annual Glo-Motion.

Before we got started, while everyone was getting all painted up and stuff, Pam and I chowed down on these Vegan Rainbow Glitter Cupcakes from Cassi's Pink Diva Cupcakery. I picked them up on my walk to class, since Pink Diva and Co-Motion are both down the block from my house.

Finally, it was time for class! We started with a vinyasa flow yoga class led by LaurieJean.

Then we had a basic hooping class with Adriene and a hoop yoga class with Meredith. We followed that up with a hoop dance party to tunes from DJ Intuigroove. I brought my LED hoop for extra glow fun, but the batteries were dying so it would only flash red and green instead of the rainbow colors it's supposed to flash. Oh well!

On Saturday morning, it was time for more yoga! Lululemon hosted a FREE yoga class at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park. Before I left home, I had a quick PureFit Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip protein bar.

It was HOT outside at 9:30 a.m. Probably around 95 degrees. Cassi and I joked about how it would be like hot yoga without the room and the ridiculously high membership fee.

I got to wear my new Vegan Plant Proteins tank from my pal Katie's (of Vegan Noms) new vegan workout clothing company, Vegainz! Next time someone asks me where I get my protein, I'll just point my shirt. ALL THESE FOODS, yo. Anyway, y'all should check out Vegainz Clothing Co.'s sweet-ass workout gear. A portion of the proceeds goes to animal welfare orgs!

Before class started, Midtown's new all-vegan I Love Juice bar handed out free samples of juices, ginger shots, and watermelon slices.

The class — a combo of vinyasa and kundalini — was led by Delta Groove Yoga's Olivia Lomax. I'd never taken one of her classes, but I absolutely loved her teaching style. And there was live music by Sibella. The class was purely magical. And the hot sun beaming down on us really made me feel so alive. I definitely prefer outdoor yoga over indoor yoga, no matter how hot it is outside.

Aw, yoga! Such a lovely weekend. Namaste!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vegan Cheezy Spaghetti with Mushrooms

When it comes to talking about my next cookbook project (a retro vegan recipe collection), I've mostly been sharing pictures of recipes from the turn of the 20th century. At least lately. That's because, after a couple years of developing recipes all willy-nilly over the decades, I decided to start working in chronological order. I went back and started with 1900-1909 and then on to 1910-1919. And I still have much work to do in those decades (mostly need to fill out the desserts for those chapters).

But sometimes, I like to jump around and make something from a more recent decade. Last week, I veganized a 1983 Southern Living recipe for Cheezy Spaghetti with Mushrooms.

Technically, the 1983 recipe was a three-cheese spaghetti, but since I was making it vegan, I figured that was a little too over the top. One cheeze is plenty. Especially when that cheeze is nooch sauce. That was the basis for this super-simple pasta dish. Sure, I could have gone with melted Daiya or Follow Your Heart. That would have been delicious, but what would a good '80s vegan do? Use nooch! Because that's all they had back then.

So, let this dish be a celebration of the original vegan cheese — Nutritional Yeast!!! And just for fun, here's the recipe.

Cheezy Spaghetti with Mushrooms
Serves 4

1 8-ounce package spaghetti noodles
2 Tbsp. vegan margarine, divided
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder, divided
Black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup water
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. dried parsley

Boil the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. margarine in a skillet and add the mushrooms. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to soften. Add the soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and black pepper. Saute for 5 more minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the nutritional yeast, flour, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and salt. Stir until well combined. Add the almond milk and water, and whisk until the lumps are gone. Turn on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer and whisk continuously until the sauce thickens like a gravy. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. margarine and the mustard. Stir until margarine melts.

Toss in the cooked pasta and mushrooms and stir to coat. If pasta and mushrooms have cooled, allow them to re-heat in the sauce before serving.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Stuff I Ate

I live to eat. Seriously. Like, when I'm eating breakfast, I'm thinking about my lunch. And when I'm eating lunch, I'm thinking about my afternoon dessert. And when I'm eating my afternoon dessert ... okay, you get it. But as much as I love food, not every dish gets its very own post. So here's a random hodgepodge of stuff I've been eating this month.

Omg, nachos!! I made Deconstructed Nachos for dinner a few nights last week. There's Beanfield's Sea Salt Bean & Rice Tortilla Chips, Let Thy Food Chedd'r Bac'n Dip (an Austin score!), Wholly Guacamole, salsa, and a mix of black beans, corn, and fresh tomato. 

I'm just loving the new boxed Daiya mac! Here's the Daiya Alfredo Cheezy Mac with Sauteed Kale. Mmmmm ... my favorite kind of dinner.

A couple Sundays ago, I had a giant lunch at Imagine Vegan Cafe with a BBQ sandwich, baked beans, fries, and cake (but I forgot to photograph everything!!). As you can imagine, I was stuffed. And when dinner time came around, the only thing that seemed right was a Big Ass Salad (romaine, cherry tomato from the garden, carrot, celery, radish, baked tofu, cauliflower, Wayfare Bacony Bits, and goddess dressing).

One night, I picked up my namesake sandwich — the Bianca Banh Mi — from Midtown Crossing for dinner. Yep, my neighborhood bar named a sandwich after me! It has red bean hummus, marinated tofu, homemade pickled veggies, cucumbers, jalapenos, and cilantro.

I'm still on a toast kick for breakfast. This is Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin Sprouted Grain Toast with Earth Balance Cinnamon Culinary Spread & PB2.

And of course, more Avocado Toast!! This had nooch, black salt, and Yellowbird Habanero Sauce!

I'm back to running a couple days a week. Still having some runner's knee pain, but the physical therapist said it was okay to start walk/running as long as I'm doing my quad/glute exercises daily. And I am, so I've been trying some runs. And I always have smoothie after runs, so last week, I made several of these Carrot Turmeric Smoothies (mango, carrot, turmeric, almond milk, and vanilla Vega One).

Last Saturday, I went to Blue Nile, a new Ethiopian joint, for lunch with Stephanie and Pam (and then Cassi popped by for takeout). I got the Mesir Wat (spicy red lentil stew) with Greens and Beet Salad. So good!

And then on Saturday night, I stopped by Imagine Vegan Cafe to pick up a slice of Stephanie's delicious caramel pie. She'd delivered it there that morning to sell by the slice, and some customer came in and BOUGHT THE WHOLE DAMN PIE. Ooooooh, I was sad. But I got a Sheila Dog instead — veggie dog topped with vegan cheese sauce, coleslaw, sauerkraut, onions, and relish.

This week, I've been having Banh Mi Salad in a Jar for lunch every day!! The recipe came from Joanna Vaught and it was included in Vida Vegan Con cookzine that Amey Matthews of Vegan Eats & Treats organized. This has a creamy dressing on the bottom and then chickpeas, edamame, baked tofu, quick pickled veggies, red cabbage, and lettuce.

These are great to take to the office. I just dump it in a big salad bowl, and chow down at my desk!

Well, that's it! I'll get to work right away eating more stuff that I can show you. It's hard work, but somebody's gotta do it, right?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vegan Drinks at Deja Vu!

Tonight was Vegan Drinks! We meet up at vegan-friendly restaurants once a month for drinks and dinner. Typically, we go with places that have full bars. But so many vegan places in Memphis only serve beer, so sometimes, we break the rules. That was the case tonight when we dined at Deja Vu Vegetarian & Creole Restaurant. 

Hey look! It's Cassi's Pink Diva delivery scooter parked out front!

We had a nice little modest-sized crowd tonight.

Chef Gary, the mastermind behind this vegan-friendly Creole restaurant, is super-awesome. And he (and his son) sat and talked with us for the entire meal!

Deja Vu isn't a totally vegan place (they have all sorts of meaty Creole specialties), but they have a number of vegan entree items and desserts. Plus, all the soul food sides are vegan! And since they're a New Orleans-style joint (Gary moved to Memphis after Hurricane Katrina), they always have Abita in stock. Nathan had an Abita Strawberry Lager.

And I went with Abita Amber.

Cassi and Pam don't really drink beer, so Cassi brought her own bottle of wine in. She shared a glass with me, too!

Clarita, Bert, and Shay got Abita, too! But Vegan Drinks isn't just about drinks. We eat! Deja Vu has a number of great vegan entrees — mock chicken salad, curry tofu, BBQ mushroom sandwiches, vegan tacos, vegan quesadillas. But I was in the rare mood for a Veggie Plate! Deja Vu has such amazing veggies! I picked four for my meal. One was Red Beans & Rice.

And Smothered Okra, Fried Plantains, and Roasted Garlic Potatoes. YUM!

Pam went with one of my very favorite entrees — BBQ Tofu!! And on the side, she got plantains and fried cabbage.

Cassi went with the Portabella Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Pasta. This was definitely enough for two meals! I think most everyone else ordered some variation on these same items.

I've eaten at Deja Vu a million times, and I've ordered every entree more than once. But I'm always so full that I've never had room for their Vegan Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Sauce. Such was the case tonight, but Cassi had room left. So she ordered a slice, and we all sampled a bite. Mmmmmmm. This is served warm and the strawberry sauce really just sets it over the top. This is the kind of cake that deserves a glass of cold coconut milk on the side. YUM!