Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Art of Ramen

I love ramen. I can't count the number of times I've uttered those words on this blog. But it's true. Ever since I was a little kid, I've considered ramen noodles my very favorite food. You can whip up the fanciest, gourmet vegan meal in the world, but it will never be better than soft, fried wheat noodles simmered in a salty, garlicky broth.

It wasn't until watching my now-favorite movie Ramen Girl with the late, great Brittany Murphy that I realized cooking ramen was considered an art form in Japan. There's even a ramen museum in Yokohama. Some day, I will make a pilgrimage.

Out of sheer laziness, I mostly eat instant ramen. But all I needed was a little push to try making my own broth. And that came from one of my favorite bloggers, Annie Shannon of Meet the Shannons. When I saw her post on Vegan Garlic Chicken Ramen with a Vegan Hard Boiled Egg, I knew that soup had to be mine:

Here's the recipe. I made it tonight, and it really does taste worlds better than the instant stuff. The broth is made with vegan chicken-style bouillon powder, soy sauce, garlic, a little lime juice, and rice wine vinegar. I bought plain ramen-style noodles at my neighborhood Asian market, and as the recipe suggests, I loaded the soup with baby corn, water chesnuts, carrots, pea pods, and Morningstar Farms chicken strips.

But the coolest part is the tofu egg! After watching Ramen Girl, I started doing research on traditional ways to make ramen, and I remember seeing photos of hard boiled eggs atop noodle bowls. Now I can do that too! The tofu egg is stuffed with mashed tofu that's been seasoned with cumin, nutritional yeast, and other spices. It was fun to break it up with chopsticks when I was eating!

And now I'll leave you with a poem I wrote about ramen in 1997 (when I was a senior in high school!) from my zine Frenzy. I stumbled across it the other day when looking through a binder of my old zines that I used to type, print, and hand out to the kids at school:

My Ode to Ramen Noodles

Long, graceful
Out of your
Block as the
Water boils you
To deliciousness.
Mixing in the
Packet of flavor
Your tan becomes
And Spicy.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Weiners and Nachos!

This past Saturday was my best friend Sheridan's bachelorette party in Little Rock. She's getting married in June, and although nothing is really changing (she lives with and has dated her boyfriend for 10 years), we pretended like this was her last night of real life.

Here's Sheridan and me hanging out on her balcony:

By the way, check out my new "Some dudes marry dudes. Get over it." tee! I ordered it from fckh8.com, and it came in just in time for the bachelorette party!

And here's Brittany and Leslie during our living room dance party:

Though we had a small gathering, the four of us had a blast. After watching Bridesmaids, we got the party started with a Vegan Nacho Bar! Chips, vegan cheese sauce, Tofutti sour cream, homemade guacamole, black beans, black olives, and jalapenos:

Believe me, these nachos were delicious both before imbibing ... and later on in the night after we'd had a few too many glasses of wine. For dessert, I baked some Hearts and Weiner Cookies!

Ha! When I said "weiner" in the post title, you probably thought I meant "hot dog." No ma'am. These are a different kind of weiner. I used the Roll-and-Cut Sugar Cookie recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar for the first time, and I was really impressed. Too often, sugar cookies get all crunchy after they cool, and I hate crunchy sugar cookies. These were soft and chewy. This will become my go-to sugar cookie recipe.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top Four Vegan Burgers in Memphis

Just about everywhere you go, there's a veggie burger on the menu. But often, restaurants resort to using Boca patties or some other pre-made frozen disc. Now, I love me some Boca. But I can have that at home. When I dine out, I want a homemade, original patty. Luckily, there are several delicious vegan burger options in Memphis. Here are my favorites:

1) Fuel Cafe's Veggie Burger

This housemade patty is, hands-down, the best burger in town. It's firm enough that it won't fall apart when you eat it, but soft enough to prove that it is, indeed, a veggie burger. It boasts a smoky flavor, and though I'm not sure what's in it, it seems to have some sort of grain base. And, best of all, they offer vegan cheese and vegan mayo.

2) Huey's Veggie Burger

Before Fuel came along, I never believed anyone could top Huey's veggie patty. It's firm and meaty, even though it's packed with veggies. You can actually see flecks of carrot and other vegetables peeking out. Plus, it's served in all kinds of ways. My fave is the one above — Texas Toast-style with jalapenos, mushrooms, and onions (ask them to leave the butter off the toast). You can also order the patty West Coast-style on a whole wheat bun with guacamole or the traditional Huey's burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, and mustard. Huey's also serves a black bean patty, but I've never inquired of its vegan-ness. The veggie patty is definitely vegan though, as I once had them read me the ingredients.

3) Trolley Stop Market's Veggie Burger

This burger is generally always vegan, but be sure to ask first. It's made fresh daily, and the last time I ate there, the server told me the cooks sometimes add cheese. But he was more than happy to check, and lucky for me, it was dairy-free that day. The patty is really veggie-heavy, and different from any other burger I've tried. I detect a hint of broccoli, maybe. Or potatoes. Honestly, it's a mystery, but whatever's in it is delicious. Plus, its fried, so that adds to the flavor. The flat patty is quite large, but not too filling. It comes served with chips, potato salad, or the fresh veggie of the day. I love the English peas!

4) Balewa's Vegan Gourmet's Live Burger

This patty is totally raw! Memphis' own raw guru Balewa prepares several different versions of his famous raw veggie burger in a dehydrator. But he'll have to kill you if he tells you what's in it. You really just have to trust him on this one. The burger obviously has some beets, which would lend it that pink-ish color, and I detect some nuts. But who knows? It's served on an Ezekial sprouted grain bun, so that makes it not quite as raw. But if you're a purist, order sans bun. I prefer it on a bun with a tasty side salad.

So there you have it. If you live in Memphis or you plan to visit soon, these are the best places to grab a burger. If you need address and phone number information on any of these locations, check out my Memphis vegan restaurant guide.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lady Who Lunches

Sometimes there's nothing more satisfying than a light and healthy lunch of a sandwich and salad. As much as I love fried food and sweets, I need some simple whole foods meals to balance everything out.

It's May, which means I had a new Sarah Kramer Go Vegan 2011 Wall Calendar recipe to makeBaby Spinach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette:

Look at that hot pink dressing!! It's made with olive oil, flax oil, vinegar, and fresh strawberries — all blended up together. I still had some mixed salad greens with baby spinach that needed using, so I subbed that for the plain spinach. And those little brown things are pine nuts. The dressing is sweet and strawberry-ish with just the right amount of tang. Like spring in a bowl.

To go along with my salad, I made a Chickpea-Hijiki Salad Sandwich from Vegan with a Vengeance:

Now, I never, ever liked real tunafish. In fact, I only liked fried catfish when I was a kid, and I even started to hate that by my pre-teens. Something about the fishy taste just grossed me out. But I do love sea veggies! The hijiki in this dish actually makes it taste a little like tuna, but in a totally un-gross way. This is the most tuna-like fake tuna spread I've ever tried.

What's your favorite soup and salad combo?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cookies Fix Everything!

A few weeks ago, I accidentally kicked the surge protector on one of our graphic designer's computers at work. Oops! His computer went black, and he lost everything he was working on. My bad. He'd already requested that I bring cookies to work soon, but after this incident, he insisted that I owed him cookies. He later admitted that he really didn't lose that much work, but he saw the situation as the perfect way to guilt trip me into baking cookies.

After that, Chris came to my desk everyday to ask, "Hey Bianca, where's my cookies?" Unfortunately for Chris, I've been eating loads of pre-made treats (like chocolates and vegan cookies), restaurant desserts (from Imagine Vegan Cafe!!), and cupcakes at various parties and such. And I don't bake when I'm eating already-made desserts because when I bake, I eat lots and lots of cookie dough or cake batter. That's what makes it fun!

Anyway, I finally decided to make cookies for Chris (and the rest of my co-workers) last night. Everybody loves chocolate chip, so I went with Kelly's Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur:

I added vegan white chocolate chips just because I could. Y'all, these may be one of my new fave cookie recipes! They're so soft and just the right amount of chewy. Kelly Paloza's book has a whole chapter on chocolate chip cookies, but she says these are the ones she used to make with her mom. So I knew they had to be the best:

All 21 cookies were gone in about an hour, so the co-workers definitely approved.

Are you a bowl/spoon licker when you bake? Or do you have enough self-control to wait until the baked goods come out of the oven?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meals on Two Wheels

Friday was Memphis Bike-to-Work Day, a second annual citywide event in which residents are encouraged to ditch their cars in favor of bikes for one day. I live in Midtown, about 15 minutes away from my downtown office. And though I've never biked that far before (I've only had my bike since Christmas), I knew I could do it.

So I strapped on my helmet and hopped on Falcor. I named my Electra Ladies' Cruiser after the luckdragon from The Neverending Story because I figured he'd take me to magical places:

I'd tell you more about the ride itself, but I'm writing a story at the newspaper I work for on that, and it won't be out until Wednesday. Since my blog has some local readership, I'll skip to the food part.

I usually either bring my lunch to work or drive home to eat, but I could do neither since I was biking to work. A packed lunch would have been too heavy with all my other work stuff in my backpack, and the ride home for lunch would have taken an extra couple of hours out of the work day. So I went with the obvious solution — bike to the nearest vegan-friendly downtown eatery. Turns out, that was Frank's Deli on South Main:

Although Frank's is about two blocks from my office, I'd never tried their food. There are several portabella mushroom-based dishes on the menu (a panini, a wrap, or a salad), but I went with the Portabella Panini with no pesto-goat cheese spread and a side of Zapp's Voodoo Chips:

I biked the sandwich to Civic Center Plaza, where a Center City Commission-sponsored Bike Expo with live music was underway for all the bike-to-workers. I found a park bench and chowed down. The bread was soft and chewy and the sandwich was packed with balsamic-marinated mushrooms and sweet tri-color peppers. The Zapp's were as awesome as always.

I was about to head back to the office, when I spied the Drag'n Frozen Treats man. This guy drives around downtown on a bike, hauling a cart of frozen treats. He had these Lemon Sorbettos (served in a frozen lemon cup!!), and they were totally vegan:

Perfect treat for a hot spring afternoon. I was a little sweaty from the ride, but the sorbet totally cooled me off. Would I ride to work everyday? Nope. But I totally enjoyed Friday's ride, and I burned hella calories!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Caribbean Macaroni & Cheese

If I had to pick one favorite food, it'd probably be vegan mac & cheese. Well, make that second favorite after Ramen noodles. Nothing can top Ramen. But mac & cheese is pretty damn good. I've tried all sorts of vegan versions from noochy cheese sauces to packaged mixes and even cashew cheese (like the one included in my cookbook).

But until today, I'd never tried anything like Taymer Mason's Bajan Macaroni Pie with Tofu Cheddar from Caribbean Vegan:

This baked mac & cheese is made with a creamy tofu-based cheddar, a cheesy roux made with nutritional yeast and lots of vegan butter, and plenty of herbs and spices. The most important ingredient in making this Caribbean is probably the heaping tablespoon of Taymer's Bajan Seasoning, which you have to make first. It's made with green onions, habanero peppers, vinegar, herbs, and spices. It adds just the right spicy, tropical kick to any dish, and it keeps for quite a while in the fridge. I keep a jar in my fridge to use on tofu, toast, and other stuff.

Now, if you look at Taymer's picture of macaroni pie from the book, you'll see that mine isn't nearly as pretty as hers. Her noodles actually stayed together in a square, like a slice of pie. But I couldn't wait the recommended 30 minutes before digging in, so mine fell apart. But that's okay. It still tasted wonderful.

I served my pie with a generous helping of Steamed Broccoli and Leahey Gardens Cheese Sauce:

Yes, it was a very cheesy meal ... without a bit of dairy cheese. Vegans cheese is better anyway.

What's your favorite cheesy vegan dish?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chubby Vegetarian Takeover

So I'm sure you all know of a fabulous little blog called the Chubby Vegetarian, right? Well, if you don't, you should get to know it. It's run by my friend/co-worker Justin Burks. He's a professional, freelance photographer and a vegetarian, so as you would imagine, his food porn is quite lovely. Justin shoots for the newspaper I write for, the Memphis Flyer, and since he's freelance, he has lots of other gigs too. In his free time, he and wife Amy cook up delicious vegetarian fare, and Justin even hosts local cooking classes and the occasional fancy, four-course dinner.

A few weeks ago, Justin proposed a post trade. I'd give him a recipe, and he'd give me a recipe. Well, the one he passed to me looked so delicious, I knew I'd have to try it myself. So that's been the hold up. I wanted to post his photo and recipe, as well as my own photo and feedback. I finally found time to make the dish tonight, so without further ado...

Here's what Justin had to say about his Baked Lemongrass Tofu with Coconut Jasmine Rice:

This dish gets its fragrant kick from a mixture of fresh herbs that you may have in your garden this time of year. The lemongrass, which can be found at your neighborhood health food store or Asian market, adds a floral note while the garlic and soy sauce add depth. This particular mixture would make even your shoe taste delicious. Luckily, we have a better plan for it than that.
Don't be deterred by the length of this recipe; it's really quite simple when you break it down. Make the spice mixture, toss it with the tofu, bake, sauté onions, add coconut milk, and it's done. It's healthier than the deep-fried stuff you get when you go out -- and you also know exactly what's in this.

Baked Lemongrass Tofu + Coconut Jasmine Rice

1 can of light coconut milk
1 cup jasmine rice
2 fat stalks of lemongrass
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
tsp. of sugar
1/4 cup mint
1/4 cup basil
zest from 1 lime
1 tablespoon sambal (or sriracha)
1/4 cup of canola oil
2 blocks firm tofu (cut into bite-sized cubed, patted dry)
1 onion (sliced into 1/2 moons)
Braggs (or soy sauce)
1 head of butter lettuce (torn)
1 large tomato (sliced)
1 cucumber (thinly sliced)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. On the stovetop, bring one cup of the coconut milk and one cup of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the jasmine rice and cover. Reduce heat to low to allow the rice to simmer. It will take about 20 minutes for the rice to cook through and absorb all of the liquid.
Now comes the fun part: smack the stalks of lemongrass on the countertop to soften them and then split them open. Pull out the pliable inside part and place it in a food processor. The rest of the stalk goes into the compost pile. Add the ginger, garlic, sugar, mint, basil, zest, and, sambal to the food processor and crank it up. You want these ingredients very finely chopped.

In a large bowl, toss the lemongrass mixture together with the canola oil and tofu and throw in a pinch of salt. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to a silpat-lined baking sheet and arrange the cubes into a single layer. Reserve the lemongrass/oil mixture that's at the bottom on the bowl. Bake tofu 20-30 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Don't let the garlic burn! Keep a close eye on it.

While that is cooking in the oven, sauté the onion in a large frying pan over medium using the reserved lemongrass/oil mixture. Once the onion is soft and translucent, remove pan from the heat. Add a tablespoon of Braggs or soy sauce to the onions. Once the tofu is done, remove it from the oven and toss it into the pan with the onions along with the remaining coconut milk. Mix and heat through. Serve over butter lettuce with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes and coconut rice.

I'm a huge fan of lemongrass tofu, which I typically fill up on at the Pho Hoa Binh, a local Vietnamese joint with fried cubes of lemongrass tofu on the lunch buffet. But as much as I would love to eat fried tofu everyday, I really don't want all those calories at home. Luckily, Justin's recipe is super low-cal. Yes, I did the calculations: only 220 calories per half-cup of tofu and 120 per one cup of the rice.

My photo isn't nearly as pretty as Justin's, but I'm sure that this tasted just as delicious:

The lemongrass coating is phenomenal, and like Justin said, it would even taste good on your shoe. But I'm sure it's even better on this tofu. I served mine with the recommended tomato and cucumber, as well as a side of steamed bok choy with soy sauce, mirin, and sambal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vegan Desserts!

God, I love Hannah Kaminsky. I wish I had my very own tiny Hannah to live in my kitchen and bake me fresh vegan desserts everyday. But since I don't, I have the next best things — Hannah's new cookbook, Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season.

First, I must admit that I LOVE seasonal cookbooks. I'm such a stickler for rules about seasonal eating. I only eat pumpkin in the fall. I try to only eat tomatoes in the summer, and strawberries are generally reserved for this time of year. Hannah's new book features recipes for every time of year. Think Gingerbread Pumpkin Seed Brittle for fall, Peppermint Mocha Trifle for winter, Strawberry Charlotte for spring, and Watermelon Bombe for summer.

Every recipe is accompanied by a full-color photo, and I've just been drooling over everything. I can't wait until summer now so I can make the Mango Lassi Popsicles, and winter will be a little more tolerable with Maple-Pecan Layer Cake with Gingerbread Frosting.

But for now, it's spring! And I couldn't resist the allure of the Spring Fling Muffins:

These moist muffins are packed with fresh, juicy strawberries and tangy rhubarb. They're topped with whole oats and crunchy turbinado sugar. Oh, so good. And since they're muffins, it's a totally acceptable dessert for breakfast.

These are the first recipe I've tried from the book, but I can't wait to make more. I think Mojito Sugar Cookies may be next on the list!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pizza In a Pinch

I've been meaning to make pizza for days in an attempt to clean out my freezer. I had some frozen Creole Steamed Sausages (from my cookbook) that I've been meaning to use, and I had one last pack of stashed, frozen Daiya mozzarella that I hoarded when I heard the Memphis Whole Foods was going to stop carrying it. Turns out, that was just a nasty rumor, so I stocked up for nothing.

But I just haven't had the time to make homemade pizza dough. It's so freakin' simple to make DIY dough, so there's no good reason to buy the pre-made stuff. But homemade dough can take up to two hours for the first and second rise. Since I work all day, and I don't care to wait all evening on dough to rise, making homemade crust is restricted to weekends. I always use Isa's "Pizza Dough — A Novel" recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance.

But another busy weekend passed me by with no time to make dough, but today, I REALLY wanted pizza. I got all sad about my pizza plight, and I even considered buying a pre-made dough at Kroger, but they all contained milk or non-vegan dough conditioners. Whole Foods sells a vegan crust, but the only one is nearly 20 minutes from my house. So I resorted to an old favorite — French Bread Pizza:

I haven't had French Bread Pizza in years! In fact, the last time was probably in my pregan days, and it was more than likely a frozen Lean Cuisine cheese French bread pizza. Ick!

This one was topped with Prego traditional marinara, Daiya, sliced Creole Steamed Sausages, bell peppers, kalamata olives, and mushrooms. I love the way the soft French bread makes for the world's thickest crust. I've always been a thick crust kind of girl.

So next time you're in a hurry and have no time for a homemade pizza crust, don't forget about French bread.

What do you do when you need pizza in a hurry?

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Best Friend's Wedding (Shower), Again

Last month, I posted pictures of the vegan dishes my mom and I made for my best friend's Sheridan's wedding shower. That was her traditional, ladies-only family shower, but this past weekend, Sheridan's friend Leslie rented out a couple of rooms in Little Rock's House Gastropub for the fun co-ed, friend shower. Since most of her guests had already given their gifts, we mostly used this shower as an excuse to party!

Here's Sheridan and her partner Drew:

They're getting hitched in June. I'm not typically a big fan of folks getting married, mainly because our gay brothers and sisters aren't afforded that basic right. But these dudes have been together for, like, 10 years. So they might as well get some tax breaks and presents. Plus, they're having a vegan wedding, and that's way better than a regular wedding.

Leslie, awesome hostess that she is, paid for all the food and all-we-could-drink microbrew on tap. I found a new beer love in Goose Island Honkers Ale, which was similar to Fat Tire. They don't sell Honkers in Memphis, so guess I'll have to go to Little Rock for more.

As for food, the House is one of Little Rock's most vegan-friendly eateries. We had loads of this awesome Hummus with Pita Chips and Bread:

And the House's homemade Veggie Burger Sliders on Foccacia Bread were amazing, especially topped with pickled onions and curry ketchup:

The staff brought us a massive bowl of Sweet Potato Waffle Fries:

For dessert, I'd planned to bring the carrot cake cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but they totally flopped. Anyone tried that recipe? I followed the directions, but they sank in the middle. And they were all sticky and gooey. I think the recipe calls for too much baking soda and not enough baking powder. It seems like the amounts called for are reversed.

Anyway, at about 1 a.m. Friday morning before the shower, the carrot cakes came out of the oven all sad and icky. So I went with Plan B. I had everything needed to make the Basic Vanilla Cupcakes from VCTOTW, and since I've probably made those a hundred times, I knew it was a winner. I didn't have any more time to lose so late at night.

I'd already whipped up Isa's cream cheese frosting for the carrot cakes. So I decided to follow her recommendation for mixing in a little orange zest.

The result were these Vanilla-Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes. That's what I named them because the citrus-y cream cheese frosting and the soft vanilla cupcake combined to taste a little like an orange push-up pop. I pulled out my special fairy cupcake toppers that I'd been saving for a special occasion:

Happy Wedding, Sheridan and Drew!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Imagine Vegan Cafe

Memphis finally has an all-vegan restaurant! Imagine Vegan Cafe opened on the last Saturday in April, but I'm just now getting around to a post because I've been collecting images of the food served there. I wanted to show y'all the variety of vegan comfort foods on the menu at this no-frills, diner-style eatery.

Imagine is run by the awesome Adam and Kristie (read my interview with Kristie here), a couple of young parents who wanted to open a place that served kid-friendly vegan comfort fare. Think corn dogs, country fried steak, cheesesticks, veggie dogs with the works, pizza. I'm a big fan of faux meat, and there's plenty of that served at Imagine. They use different brands, but several dishes are made with Gardein, my favorite plant protein brand.

Since the place opened, Adam said they have had a huge number of omnis wandering in to try vegan food for the first time. I love that Imagine has omni-friendly menu items, like fried vegan chicken sandwiches and vegan flank steak. It's not all super-healthy food. It's comfort food, and that's what vegans need when we dine out. I can do healthy at home, but when I eat out, I want something a little naughty.

Despite the fact that Imagine serves lots of faux fare, the prices are very reasonable. Sandwiches with a side item cost about $6, and most entrees are under $10.

But enough with all this talk. Let's get to the photos.

The most important thing about Imagine: They have VEGAN CHEESESTICKS!!!! OMG, y'all. These are so, so good. I believe these are the Chicago Soy Dairy brand, which are Teese-filled. Even my cheese-eating vegetarian friend thought these were better than ones made with dairy mozzarella:

Also on the appetizer menu is this very creamy Spinach Dip, which my newly-vegan friend Hannah said was very much like its dairy-laden counterpart:

You can't have a comfort food cafe without Dogs 'n' Blankets! These are wrapped in flaky crescent rolls:

Even salads can be a little sinful when they're topped with fried goodness and plenty of dressing, like this Fried Chicken Salad:

Imagine offers a couple of entrees in a bowl, like three-bean chili (not pictured) and this Gumbo with vegan chicken and sausage:

There's an extensive sandwich menu, and all sandwiches come with your choice of one side item. Here's my friend Stephanie's Philly Cheesesteak with Mashed Sweet Potatoes:

And my Fried Chicken Sandwich (yep, that's Gardein) with some of the world's best vegan Macaroni & Cheese:

My friend Leslie had the Eggless Egg Salad with Sauteed Spinach:

I can't remember who ordered this Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, but I'm sure it was delicious:

And several friends tried the Vegan Memphis, a shredded BBQ sandwich with slaw, beans, and fries. I haven't tried it yet, but I've only heard fabulous things:

Entree plates come with a choice of two sides, making for a heartier meal. I fell in love with this Chicken Drumstick Meal with Mashed Potatoes & Gravy and Corn Casserole. They use Veggie Brothers Drumstix, but this was the first I'd heard of that brand. The "chicken" was really, really fibrous, and when you bit into it, it pulled apart just like eating actual chicken. Some people might be weirded out by realistic fake meat, but that just makes it better to me:

My pal Michael ordered the Beef Tips & Rice, Mac & Cheese, and Broccoli & Cheese. They use the Gardein Beefless Tips for this:

And Amy ordered the Spinach Florentine Raviolis with Garlic Toast:

But wait! That's not all! Imagine has a great selection of vegan desserts! There's brownie sundaes, banana splits, and several flavors of VEGAN MILKSHAKES! The Peanut Butter Milkshake is, hands down, the best thing I've ever put in my mouth:

A local lady named Karina Khun bakes cupcakes, layer cakes, brownies, and cookies daily to sell at Imagine. I couldn't resist this Cookies 'n' Cream Cupcake:

Imagine even sells the Go Max Go candy bars!! Now I'll never have to order my Mahalo's online again!

I might be biased, but I think Imagine Vegan Cafe may be the best thing to happen to Memphis ... like ever. Now that we have a vegan restaurant, the city's cool points just inched way, way higher. Look out, Portland. Here we come!

Imagine Vegan Cafe is located at 2156 Young Ave. Check out their website here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Seitan 'n' Cabbage

When I led a Seitan 101 demo at my house a few weeks back, I made sample batch of Seitan Chicken (from my book). But I'd already prepared another batch for my audience to sample, so when they left, I had a whole new pot of seitan left. I froze it in two containers of two cups each, and this week, I thawed some out for Isa's Braised Cabbage & Seitan from Appetite for Reduction:

This simple entree is made from seitan, cabbage (duh), garlic, veggie broth, thyme, and red pepper flakes. It has a wee bit of oil since it's from Isa's low-fat cookbook. It's satisfying, and you can eat a ton for far less calories than most other entree choices. I served mine over red quinoa seasoned with vegan chicken broth powder.

I picked up some fresh broccoli at the Memphis Farmers Market last Saturday. Local broccoli is my all-time fave produce item to purchase at the market, but it's only around here for a few weeks in late spring. It's so much more tender than broccoli from the grocery store. I served my Steamed Broccoli with Leahey Gardens Vegan Cheese Sauce:

I've raved about Leahey Garden mac & cheese before, and this sauce is the same stuff from the mac box. But it's sold on its own as a powdered cheese sauce to cook with soymilk for topping veggies, nachos, or whatever. It was the perfect topping for my lovely broccoli trees! The package of sauce was another Easter gift from my parents. They ordered it from Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe.

What's your favorite produce item to purchase locally?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Of Pancakes and Floods

In case you haven't heard on the national news, parts of Memphis are flooded since the Mississippi River has crested at its highest level since 1937. But the national coverage makes it look like the whole city is underwater! Not so, my vegan friends. Most of the city is not underwater. About 900 homes were expected to flood before the river crested today, but most are in northern parts of the county or on a little river island called Harbor Town. I hope those people are back in their homes soon and the damage is minimal.

I've had a few friends from out of town express concern, but I'm totally fine in my Midtown home — far away from the muddy Mississippi. And most of our tourist attractions — Graceland, Soulsville, Sun Studio, the National Civil Rights Museum — are high and dry. Only Mud Island River Park, which is on an island in the river, is underwater. Most of the city is situated on a bluff, positioned pretty high above the flood stage.

On Mother's Day, my mom, boyfriend, and I flocked downtown with the rest of the "flood tourists" to snap some photos of the rising water. Here are a few of my faves.

Okay, so I know I just said Beale Street wasn't flooded, but there is some flooding at the very end of the street by the river. The bars are up a hill and totally safe. This is a view of the corner of Beale and Riverside, which is near the water's edge. The river has risen up into the street there:

This crazy guy rode his bike right into the water at the foot of Beale and Riverside Drive:

The flooding is washing up snakes and other river critters onto the shore. This cute little water moccasin washed up a few feet from us as we photographed the waves from barge traffic. They're super poisonous, but he kept his distance. And he made his way back into the water as soon as he could:

All that water talk can really make a girl hungry. Thankfully, I have a few of Melody's White Bean Pancakes awaiting me in the fridge for tomorrow's breakfast:

I always make a whole batch of pancakes in one night and heat them up each day for breakfast. Melody's white bean pancakes are so tasty! When she posted them on her blog, I thought, "White beans?! In a pancake?! Weird! I must try it." So I did. The beans are blended with water, vanilla, and sweetener, and then mixed with the whole wheat flour and chickpea flour. You can't really taste the beans, but you can taste the distinct flavor of the chickpea flour, which I adore. They have almost the same consistency as a cornmeal pancake, but not so grainy.

I served my pancakes with a couple slices of my Tempeh Bacon — a recipe in my upcoming vegan Southern cookbook. It's due out in January of 2012, by the way. The publisher has nailed down a month!

Anyway, please try Melody's pancakes! And keep all the Memphis flood victims in your thoughts! They say our waters won't recede for several weeks, so some people may be displaced for awhile.