Thursday, April 23, 2015

Vegan Fish Tacos!

It's Taco Thursday! Yea, it doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Taco Tuesday. But regardless of what day it is, tacos are always awesome. And can you believe I've never had a fish taco?

Nope. I stopped eating fish long before I went vegetarian at age 14. I just never liked fish all that much, and my parents didn't eat any seafood. So it wasn't something I really grew up with. But I did always love Captain D's when I was a kid. That battered, deep-fried fish was the only kind I liked. Not that I missed it. But when I took my first taste of the Gardein Fishless Filets last year, I thought, "OMG, it's like vegan Captain D's!"

Since then, I've had the Gardein filets a couple times, always deep-fried and served with fries (or chips as the British say), hush puppies, and slaw. But I've been thinking a lot about fish tacos lately, even though I've never had them. I googled "vegan fish tacos" and found this recipe on Homemade Levity, which calls for the Gardein filets. I picked up a package of filets at the Crosstown Kroger (which, by the way, has a better vegan product selection than our Whole Foods). And then, using that recipe, I whipped these up!

Fish tacos, where have you been all my life? Or should I say, fishless tacos? Man, these were so good! Vegan fish (baked in the oven) with pickled cabbage and onions, chipotle cream, cilantro from my herb garden, and a squeeze of lime. And I used whole wheat flour tortillas from Whole Foods.

I'm so glad I get to eat these again tomorrow! On the side, I had a corn tot with the vegan miso butter from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen. It's a miso-olive oil-garlic spread that's so perfect for fresh corn on the cob!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No Cow Bars!

I love protein smoothies and bars, especially for recovery after a hard workout. When I'm running (and I'm currently not due to injury), I follow every run with a protein powder-packed smoothie or a vegan protein bar. But I've found that so many "protein bars" don't actually contain as much protein as my Vega One powders.

But that's not the case with D's Naturals No Cow Bars. These have 21 grams of plant protein! A couple months back, they offered to send me some samples to review. Look at the cute box!

And here's what was inside. There are only three flavors, so they doubled up on Blueberry Cobbler. And there was also Mint Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough.

Taste-wise, I like just about every bar I try! But it's hard to find a bar that meets my protein needs when I'm being all athletic. And this one tastes great and is loaded with protein (from brown rice and peas). It's also low in sugar, rich in iron, and all-natural. The bars are sweetened with monk fruit and stevia, and that cuts down on the calories. Although I don't mind a higher-calorie bar when it's a meal replacement, sometimes I like protein bars as pre-breakfast snacks. These only have 160 to 170 calories. Perfect for a snack!

And the coolest thing about this company is that it was founded by 18-year-old Daniel Katz. Katz got his entrepreneurial start by buying items on Craigslist and reselling them on eBay when he was 12. And since then, he's developed his business skills and runs his own business! How awesome is that? Katz has a great product, so I hope he does well. Gotta support small vegan businesses!

I tried my first No Cow bar — the Blueberry Cobbler — after my Little Rock Half-Marathon. This was in Sheridan's car post-race, after I'd stood in line in the freezing, wet cold waiting for my gear check bag. I was starving and feeling pretty weak because I'd turned down all the free snacks right after the race. At the time, I was just too worn out to even think about taking any free food. Luckily, I'd packed this bar in my bag. When I finally got my bag and got into Sher's warm car, I ripped it open and downed it!

Loved the blueberry flavor. It comes from freeze-dried blueberries, so it's totally natural. As for the texture, imagine if you took protein powder, added a little liquid, and pressed it into bar form. It's very chewy, and it has that creaminess that protein powder has. I know it's weird to describe a bar as creamy, but I can't think of a better word!

As I've mentioned before, I ended up hurting my knee in that race. So I was out for a couple weeks. I did attempt a 3-mile run a couple weeks later, and although my knee started hurting at the end, I still managed to finish the run. So I rewarded myself with the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough flavor. This was my very fave! God, I love peanut butter!

I'd have written this review a lot sooner, but after that 3-miler, I knew I had to take it easy for awhile to really let my knee heal. So I haven't been running enough to justify a protein bar. But then, last Saturday, I just decided to eat one of these as a lunch snack instead. I was doing a booksigning at our Memphis Library's Bookstock event, and that went straight through the lunch hour. So I packed the Mint Chocolate Chip bar.

What a perfect and filling snack! When I ate this bar, I'd not eaten since breakfast about 4 hours prior. And this bar held me over until I left the event a couple hours later. Plus, there were little cacao nibs! I love anything with crunchy nibs!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vegan Drinks: Ramen Edition!

Last week, I blogged about Robata, a new-ish ramen shop in Overton Square. It's vegan-friendly, and they have a full bar. So you know what that means? Vegan Drinks!

We had our monthly Vegan Drinks meetup at Robata tonight! Here's the gang!

I ordered an Izakaya Lemonade to start. This is made with citrus vodka, triple sec, sour mix, and matcha green tea powder. It was a little sweeter than what I'd typically drink. But it was strong, so that made it okay.

Cassi went all high-dollar and ordered some imported sake with vegan jello bits inside. It's something she had when she visited Japan, so she just had to have it even though it was an $11 drink!

We didn't realize until after we ordered that hot sake was half-price for happy hour. So we split an order of that after we finished our first round.

To start, I got the Plum Onigiri — steamed rice ball with umeboshi plum. The plum is on top and stuffed in the center. And those are little pickles on the side.

And Garlic Yakitori because garlic!

My entree came with a side of Vegetable Gyoza. Yum!

For dinner, I ordered the Yasai Ramen, a vegan rice noodle soup with seaweed/soy broth, corn, lettuce, and veggies. But honestly, by the time I got to this, I'd eaten (and drank) all the above, and I was so full that I took two or three bites and took the rest home for tomorrow's lunch.

Most everyone else got some variation on these same items. But Karen got the Shishito Yakitori — Japanese peppers. She said it tasted like okra!

And Vaughan ordered Seaweed Salad. 

Cassi and Karen both ordered the Age-dashi Tofu without the bonito (fish) and dashi sauce (fish). So it was just fried tofu with radish. Yum!

And of course, Cassi had to be difficult and go off-menu with her ramen order. The Yasai Ramen is already vegan and comes with veggies, but instead Cassi ordered the Yasai broth with fillings from another soup that isn't typically vegan. Hers had seaweed/soy broth with added seaweed and bean sprouts.

If you're local and want to hang out at the next Vegan Drinks meetup in May, here's our Facebook page!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Yoga Video Review!

As I've whined about mentioned numerous times over the last couple months, I'm a runner who can't run. And that's basically the worst. I started having knee pain around mile 7 during the Little Rock Half-Marathon on March 1st. But I kept running on it for 5 more miles because, well, that giant medal was pretty important to me!

We didn't get the medals at the end of the race due to a delay in their delivery to the race organizers. But they were mailed out a couple weeks back. I was so excited to finally have this giant thing! Little Rock is known across the country for their giant medals. And the half-marathon medals are about half the size of the full marathon medals. Next year, I'm going for the big one.

But if I want to run a half next year, I've got to keep taking it easy right now. I've been on short walk/runs that don't hurt my knee. I've been doing strengthening exercises for my legs and hips and lots and lots of yoga! A few weeks back, Gaiam sent me two new yoga videos to review. One was Yoga for Runners!

Even though I'm not running distance right now, I was able to put this video to the test before and after one of my 20-minute walk/runs (alternating two minutes running and two minutes walking for 20 minutes). There's a 20-minute pre-run practice and a 20-minute post-run practice. One day, I did both with a 20-minute walk/run in between.

The pre-run practice focuses on loosening up joints and muscles for a safer running experience. There was lots of cat/cow and some of these hip openers (pictured below) that I like to call dog pee-pee poses.

After the pre-run practice, I went out for that quick run. And I have to say that I did feel looser and more warmed up. I'm used to just rolling out of bed, downing a quick snack, and heading out the door for a run. But it definitely helps to do a little yoga first.

The post-run practice was my fave though. Because I'm so bad at stretching! I usually always stretch after every run, but I'm certain I don't do enough stretches, and I'm sure I don't hold them as long as I should. I figure that's part of why I keep ending up with injuries. The post-run practice offered some great stretches, and having a yoga instructor tell me how long to hold postures really helps. Here's one exercise from the video that I actually do manage to do after most runs! Love this one.

On the Yoga for Runners video, there's also a 20-minute Yoga for Conditioning practice to do on days that you don't run. I did that the next day, and it was very helpful. It focuses on realigning the bones and building body strength.

I usually put Maynard up when I do yoga in the living room, but he was laying on the couch being a good boy when I started the post-run segment. So I left him out. And then he decided to give me a dog tongue massage during Savasana!

Gaiam also sent me this Hot Yoga for Beginners video. Now I LOVE Bikram. Love, love, love it. But I can't really afford to join a Bikram studio. Not to mention that I have a hard time finding time for the hour-and-a-half-long practices.

This video is actually not Bikram though, just more of a generic hot yoga practice. Bikram is a very specific set of 26 postures. But this video features poses commonly featured in hot yoga classes that aren't necessarily Bikram. And it says you can do this practice with or without a heated room because who can really heat their workout room to 105 degrees in their home, right?

I did bring a space heater in the room with me though. And I cranked it up on high. The room got a little toasty since it was already about 78 and muggy in my house that morning.

This video has three separate 20-minute practices that can done on their own or all together. I did all three back-to-back. The first segment focused on heating up the body, the second on igniting the body, and the third on simmering down. That igniting segment contained LOTS of planks and chaturangas. Talk about igniting! My arms and chest were so sore the next day! Still are. But you know, good sore. Like the kind of sore that lets you know you did something awesome for yourself.

And I love that the video has one of my favorite poses — Lord of the Dance pose!

I'd definitely recommend both of these videos. But Yoga for Runners is my fave!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Paul's 35th Birthday!

Today was my partner Paul's 35th birthday. As you probably know from past posts, Paul isn't vegan. But in the past month, he's joined a gym, started running, and he's making an attempt to eat healthier! So for his birthday, he asked for proper running shoes (he's been running in shoes not made for running). I bought him some new Brooks Launch shoes! I also got him some of his favorite pancakes from Brother Junpier's. Not vegan, unfortunately. But baby steps.

Eventually, he says he wants to run a half-marathon with me. We'll see if it sticks. Hope it will. The Brooks Launch are some badass shoes.

I got Paul's pancakes as takeout and then came home and fixed myself some rice noodle ramen, which I ate while watching Game of Thrones. Then we met up with my friend/co-worker Shara at a festival downtown. Our newspaper, The Memphis Flyer, was a sponsor, so we got free beer tickets. That bought us a LOT of beer! This was a combo of various Leinenkugel shandys and beer from Southern Prohibition.

No birthday is complete without cake! But since we didn't have a big party this year, I didn't want to bake a big cake. So we just bought a couple cupcakes from my friend Cassi's Pink Diva Cupcakery. Paul wanted the Diva Delight (in the foreground - chocolate cupcake with chocolate mousse filling and whipped cream topping), and I opted for the Cherry Cupcake (in the background - vanilla-cherry cake with cherry whipped topping).

For dinner, Paul wanted to go to his favorite steakhouse, Folk's Folly. That sounds like a vegan nightmare, I know. But they're actually super-nice there, and when we go, they always make me a vegan Pasta Primavera dish. I loved the veggie-to-pasta ratio!

After dinner, we met some friends at Los Compadres. Here we are at the end of the night. Happy birthday, Paul!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cheribundi Challenge!

Cheribundi, the makers of all-natural tart cherry juice, has launched their 7-day Cheribundi Challenge. It's pretty simple. Drink cherry juice for 7 days, and supposedly, you'll see some health benefits. On their website, they claim that cherry juice can help improve sleep, fight inflammation, and boost athletic recovery. They sent me some cherry juice so I could take the challenge and blog about!

I don't have problems sleeping. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow and sleep like a log until my alarm goes off in the morning. And even then, I don't hear it most of the time. And I'm currently not all that athletic since I've been dealing with a nagging knee injury that's kept me from running.

But one thing I do have is pain. Runner's knee, to be exact. Ever since the Little Rock Half-Marathon, I've been dealing with what I believe to be IT band issues causing knee pain. I've been icing and foam-rolling and doing exercises designed to build strength in the hips. Since I'm hoping to be ready to train for a marathon in a couple months, I'm really trying to take it easy.

I embarked on the Cheribundi Challenge hoping this tart cherry juice would help manage that knee pain. According to the Cheribundi website, there's a theory that phytonutrients and anthocyanins in tart cherries combat aches and pains associated with everyday activities by blocking the enzymes that cause inflammation.

So I drank one 8-ounce juice everyday for 7 days. And while my knee still hurt from time to time, like when I did any squatting or attempted to run, the pain did seem to lessen quite a bit. I started the challenge a few weeks ago, right after I returned from Seattle. And at that time, my knee was hurting even while walking because I'd done SO MUCH walking in Seattle. That subsided during the cherry juice week, and now it doesn't hurt at all while walking. Is it fixed? No. But cherry juice isn't a miracle cure. I wish it could heal my knee, so I could run again. But only time and strength training can do that.

As for the taste, it's delicious. Tart and sweet at the same time. Each bottle contains 50 cherries! That's an insane amount of cherries that you could never eat in one sitting. Plus, it's sweetened with apple juice, not sugar. My only complaint would be the high calories. The regular cherry juice has 130 calories per 8 ounces, and since I'm not running, that's a big chunk of my snack calorie allotment. I'm having to eat less calories since I'm not as active. But Cheribundi does make a light version with five less cherries per bottle that's only 80 calories. That's more my speed.

By the way, I got pretty creative with my daily juice. Some days, I drank it straight from the bottle. But other days, I mixed it into smoothies. This one had frozen banana, cherry juice, cashew milk, and hemp protein.

And other days, I spiked my cherry juice with vodka. Yum! This has Absolut Blueberry Acai vodka, cherry juice, and lime juice. This was definitely my favorite way to drink it!

I stuck with the original cherry juice for the challenge, but Cheribundi also sent me some of their Refresh juices to try. This Tart Cherry Lime Refresh was my fave!

This has less cherries per bottle, but it's mixed with other fruit juice. In this case, it was cherry and lime. Reminded me of a Sonic Cherry Limeade but much healthier!

I also tried the Tart Blueberry Refresh Juice. Cherry and blueberry go so well together!

I'd love to work cherry juice into my daily routine. But the calories are a little prohibitive. If I were to make this a regular thing, I'd definitely go with the light juice instead. But then again, if I were able to run again, I might be able to work in the original daily. And since it's said to help with muscle soreness and oxidation, this would be great for post-run recovery!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Puppies and Cupcakes and Squirrels! Oh My!

Quick post tonight because I have an early meeting in the morning. But it's filled with adorable animals so that should make up for the lack of wordiness.

As you probably know from past posts, my friend Cassi runs a vegan cupcake shop in Memphis called Pink Diva Cupcakery. She's been baking cupcakes for humans for months now, but now she also bakes cupcakes for dogs.

These little Pupcakes have a carob-coconut cake base with a vegan whipped cream frosting. I brought a couple home from her cupcake sale at the Healthy Memphis Food Fest this past weekend.

You can't see the cake in this picture, but I'm holding the cake just outside the frame. And Maynard is literally licking his lips! Datsun is just giving that adorable puppy-dog eye thing he does when he wants something. Spoiled rotten.

They gobbled the pupcakes right up, and then Datsun looked at me as if to say, "Where's the next one?" Anyway, if you're local and want a batch of pupcakes, place an order with Cassi here.

While we're on the subject of adorable animals, I figure you're all due for a Herman update. As you might remember, Herman is the little baby squirrel orphan we found in our backyard last summer. We bottle-fed him for months, and then when he was ready, we set him free. But he came back. And he's continued to visit (and get nut treats) nearly every day since we freed him in October.

Herman survived the winter just fine! But he is just LOVING spring. Here's a cute video of Herman playing in the backyard this past weekend.