Sunday, December 30, 2012

Even An Idiot Can Use a Slow Cooker

That's thanks to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Slow Cooking by Beverly Lynn Bennett. There are few things easier than throwing some veggies and beans and stuff in a Crock Pot, turning the heat to low, and heading off for a long day's work. But the Complete Idiot's Guide series has now made it even easier.

The first chapter covers "Slow Cooking 101." Stuff like slow cooker shapes and sizes, food cooker safety, and why slow cookers are ideal for people looking to cook with less fat. There are even tips for converting standard recipes to slow cooker recipes and how to bake in a slow cooker.

But unlike some of the Idiot's Guide cookbooks, which can tend to be more words than recipes, this book is chock full of recipes. There are chapters on dips and appetizers (hot artichoke dip with buttery breadcrumbs anyone?), soups, stews, veggies sides and casseroles (the wine-braised cabbage is calling my name), bean dishes, and loads of desserts (there are separate chapters for fruity desserts, puddings, and cakes). I mean, how can you not love a cookbook with entire chapter on pudding?! The Sticky Date Toffee Pudding sounds so good!!

But I decided to make something savory for dinner. Now, mind you, this was last week. I've been busy all week with no time for cooking, and I'm a little behind on posting. But anyway, I found this recipe for Southwestern Posole with Cornmeal Dumplings:

The recipe header says it's a traditional dish eaten on Christmas Eve by some Mexican, Native American, and Southwestern cultures. So I made this to enjoy on the Winter Solstice.

It's a bean and veggie stew filled with all kinds of goodness. There's pinto beans, onions, bell peppers, hominy, squash, zucchini, jalapenos, and herbs and spices (chipotle chili powder!). The cornmeal dumplings are basically just cornbread. The batter is added to the top of the stew after about six hours of cooking time. So delicious!! I especially loved the hominy in this recipe. Hominy may be one of my favorite veggies. I can't believe I hated it when I was a kid!

Anyway, if you're looking for some simple slow-cooker recipes to make your life easier this winter, check out this book.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

12 Days of Ramen

I'm off work all week! Every year, our Memphis Flyer offices close for the holidays, and we get Christmas Eve through New Year's Day off work (except this year, we'll have to work on New Year's Day due to deadline times for the next issue). And you know what that means? 

Okay, you probably don't. But it means ramen noodles every day! You see, I've long had this weekend tradition of sleeping in, making a steamy bowl of rice noodle ramen, and eating them in my PJs while lounging on the couch and watching an hour-long TV show from Netflix (right now, I'm working my way through the last season of Big Love).

I've blogged about this tradition and my love for ramen plenty of times before. But this may the first time that I can remember eating ramen for every day of holiday vacation. I mean, why not? It's like one big giant weekend, right? So why not treat it like one? I called this post "12 Days of Ramen" because it's cute, but it's really more like nine days (since I had a proper breakfast on Xmas Day and I only have 10 days off work).

Anyway, here are some highlights from Ramen-thon 2012. This bowl was particularly awesome. It's Vegan Chicken-Flavored Rice Noodle Ramen with Tofu Noodles and Veggies:

Yes, tofu noodles! I found these crazy thin tofu sheets separated into noodles at the Asian market by my house.

The Viet Hoa Asian market has the craziest ramen accessories! And they have a wide selection of vegan noodles. These are a few of my faves. Note: Even though the purple package says "beef flavor," it's indicated as "artificial beef flavor" in the ingredients.

I also keep this Savory Baked Tofu from the Viet Hoa in stock too. It's the firmest tofu I've ever seen. It's pressed and baked and it comes four large squares to a package. I freeze them for later use.

Check it out:

Here's a bowl with the tofu cubes:

Also, I keep frozen mixed veggies in the freezer to add. A bowl of ramen without tofu and veggies just isn't right. Oh, and I always, always add plenty of sriracha to the broth. You may have noticed that both bowls pictured are in the same bowl. That's because I have a dedicated bowl that's only to be used for ramen, and I have a special soup spoon and special chopsticks. Ramen is a ritual for me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Vegan Food Gifts Galore

I make my friends holiday gifts every year. But every year, I have to dig around for new ideas. Last year, I made brown sugar bath scrubs and the year before, I made subversive cross stitch art (with sayings like "Homo Sweet Homo" and "Please Kill Me").

But this year, deciding what to make was easy! Because one of my favorite vegan cookbook authors, Joni Marie Newman, came out with her awesome Vegan Food Gifts book just before the holidays. After much dog-earring and deliberating, I settled on the following gifts for my friends and family.

The last chapter of Vegan Food Gifts is dedicated to homemade booze, so I knew I'd be making lots from that section. People love booze gifts. I made Vanilla Mint Vodka infused with vanilla bean and mint leaves:

And Homemade Kalua (vodka infused with vanilla bean and coffee grounds for 30 days):

I also made vegan Irish Cream, but I failed to photograph it. It had to be stored in the fridge, so I forgot to pull it out when I was shooting these pictures. And my friend Greg, its recipient, has the bottle now.

My mom looked through Vegan Food Gifts on our road trip to Atlanta VegFest in November, and she made it quite clear that she wanted the homemade Classic Margarita Mix and Lime Salt:

A few of my friends don't drink (gasp!). One is preggo, so she's excused, but the others are just teetotalers for no reason. It seems weird to me, but I respect their strange ways, so I made some non-booze gifts. My preggo friend Shay and my yoga-loving friend Lara (who does drink but only wine and not very often) got Roasted Garlic & Peppercorn-Infused Olive Oil:

And my never-had-a-drink-in-his-life-even-though-he's-42 friend Mike and my brews-her-own-beer-but-doesn't-drink-it friend Leslie got soup mixes — Cheezy Potato for Mike (made with nooch, veggie broth powder, and potato flakes) and Masala Soup Mix for Leslie (lentils, quinoa, rice, and masala spices):

Oh, and Vegan Food Gifts includes little recipe cards that you can copy and print and attach!

I also made Instant Vegan Mac & Cheese Mix (for Sheridan and Stephanie). It's made with cashews and nooch. And I made some Chipotle Ranch Dressing Mix (just add Vegenaise or sour cream!) for Steph:

Some friends also got a box of Saltine Toffee (saltine crackers cooked with butter and sugar and topped with chocolate and nuts):

(Others got jars of my homemade hot sauce, but it's not pictured here because it's my own recipe. You can find that here).

The best part? I made myself a jar of everything too! You know, for quality control. Anyway, all of Joni's food gifts were delicious and very well-received. I'll probably be making more stuff from this book next year since there's plenty more ground to cover.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What I Ate for Xmas

Well, Xmas is over. At least for me. We don't do Xmas dinner or anything, so my eating and gifting and unwrapping is all done. But the holiday was great as usual. My parents and friends got me awesome gifts — Vegan Dish dishes, a cookbook holder, a vacuum cleaner, running shorts with "vegan" across the butt(!!!), lots of clothes and jeans from Delia's, a rainbow knife set, a giant rainbow unicorn pendant that would make Flavor Flav proud, vegan soaps, and so much more. Oh, and my parents are getting me new wooden blinds for my house, and my partner Paul gave me a gift certificate for a new tattoo!

But you're here for the food. So I'll show y'all what I've been eating over the past couple of days. Yesterday, before we made the one-hour drive to Jonesboro for Xmas with the parents, I snacked on sweet vegan food gifts that my friend Leslie made me.

She made Indian Burfi (a fudge-like candy with grated carrots) and Masala Chai Melt-a-ways:

And some Orange Cranberry Bread and Pumpkin Flax Bread:

For Xmas Eve dinner, we always go out to eat with my parents in Jonesboro. It's usually Chinese since that's about the only thing open in their town on Xmas Eve. My parents and Paul ate off the buffet, but it didn't look very vegan-friendly. So I ordered Vegetable Fried Rice (which I had been super craving anyway) and stole a veggie Spring Roll and some red sauce off the buffet:

After all that greasy awesomeness, I probably shouldn't have eaten again last night. But my BFF Sheridan (who lives in Little Rock but also goes home to Jonesboro for the holidays) came over to my parents' house with her famous vegan Zucchini Bread:

It's hard to get a great shot of the zucchini bread, but trust me when I tell you that Sheridan's zucchini bread is the most amazing thing ever. It's perfectly moist and nutty. She's been making loaves like this for Xmas for years!

Although my family doesn't do Xmas Day dinner, we do have a decadent holiday breakfast at my Granny's. Granny makes scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, and hash browns. And I get vegan versions of everything! Check out my plate:

That scramble, by the way, was wonderful. My mama made it to mimic the scramble that we love to order at Brother Juniper's, a Memphis breakfast joint. The secret is kalamata olives!

Anyway, dinner tonight was leftover Chinese food. And we're about to catch a screening of The Hobbit. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Solstice with the Pets!

Every year, we open gifts with the pets on Winter Solstice. I don't have any food to show you tonight, but who cares? Cause I have something way better! Kitties and puppies having fun!

Datsun and Maynard got new Hurley balls, and they were sooooo happy. Look at Datsun!

Maynard was also psyched about his new giant rope bone toy!

The cats got new jingly balls and a big bottle of catnip spray. So we sprayed all their new toys with catnip. Akasha went a little cray-cray:

Pandora kept her cool. She was more intrigued by all the wrapping paper in the floor:

Polaris is totally weirded out by pit bull Maynard, so he hung back, refusing to participate in toy opening:

Seymour is also a shy kitty. He stayed in his hidey hole in the china cabinet, but we threw him some catnip and he made his tongue touch his nose!

But Gelfling and Ozzy aren't afraid of crazy dogs with new toys. They were way too concerned with fighting over one new toy!

Merry Solstice!!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Balewa's Vegan Gourmet

The best thing that could ever happen to a vegan happened to me! A vegan restaurant opened right across the street from my house. Literally five houses down and across the block! It's called Balewa's Vegan Gourmet and it's a high-raw joint offering all kinds of healthy goodness. But the star of the menu is Balewa's live burger.

Years ago, Balewa operated a food stand out of another cafe called Sean's Cafe. His live vegan burgers gained quite a following, even from diehard omnis. But he closed that shop a couple years back, and he's been looking for a place to settle ever since. And wouldn't you know it? He found a place in Crosstown, right across from my house. I'm probably the luckiest girl in the world.

Balewa has been trying to get his place open for a couple months now, but health inspections and permits take time. He finally opened this week! And I finally got a chance to stop in today.

But wait, let's back up. In early November, before he was officially open, Balewa had a meet-and-greet in the store and he gave out free samples. I stopped in and this is the "sample" bowl I was given. That sample was a full meal!

There's Garlic Quinoa, 14-Karot Gold Salad, Chili Quinoa, and the most amazing cashew-based Chik Salad (that was my favorite!).

And they also gave me a free sample of their Iced Chai Tea:

That all left me clamoring for more! But I had to wait a whole month. Today, I finally got to try lots more from his menu, which has super expanded since he had the old place at Sean's Cafe. Check it out:

My co-worker Hannah ordered Balewa's famous Live Burger. No one knows what's in it cause Balewa won't tell. But we know it's vegan and raw (except for the bun ... he uses Ezekiel bread though) and it has some form of sprouts in it. And probably beets for the color:

She also ordered the Garlic Quinoa. This stuff is soooooo garlicky. If you're not a super garlic lover, don't get this. But I am and so is Hannah. Her breath was kinda funky for awhile later though:

I started with a shot of Mo Beta Karrot juice. It's a creamy combo of carrot juice, fresh ginger, and almond milk, and it may be my new favorite thing ever. He sells this in a full glass size for $4.99, but the shots are just $2:

I also ordered a Seawich. That's his 14-Karot Gold salad (carrot pulp, nori, and spices) on Ezekiel bread. Its served with a fresh sprout salad and blue corn chips:

Here's an inside look:

I also ordered the Ra-Kreem Broccoli Soup. Made in a magic Vitamix, this ultra-creamy soup is made from all sorts of goodness — broccoli, spinach, kale, asparagus, sprouts, garlic, cayenne, and Bragg's:

Wow! I felt so healthy after eating all this food. It made me look forward to my upcoming cleanse. It's nice to finish a meal and not feel guilty, which is what I've been feeling lately with all the holiday cookies and parties loaded with vegan junk food. I'll definitely be hitting up Balewa's throughout my January cleanse and, of course, forever after. Because he's right across the street!! Did I mention that? Right across the street, people. Ahhh ....

Balewa's Vegan Gourmet is located at 394 N. Watkins. Call 901-859-0590.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kinda Homemade

*** First, a little fun announcement! Vegan superstar Sarah Kramer's Go Vegan iPhone and iPad app (filled with yummy vegan recipes!) is going on sale from the usual $6.99 to $2.99 from December 25th through January 2nd. Sarah and Tonya's Garden of Vegan was my first vegan cookbook, and I just can't get enough of those awesome recipes. So I wanted to share that with y'all. Anyway ...

Y'all know I'm not lazy, right? I typically don't shy away from making homemade sauces and such, but it's holiday time. I've been a busy little bee in my kitchen making homemade vegan food gifts (a la Joni Newman), so I've had little time to cook for myself.

It's time like these that I turn to jarred and canned sauces to start a meal. I ordered some Seeds of Change Jalfrezi Sauce from a few weeks back. 

Jalfrezi is a type of curry made from vegetables fried in oil and spices until they cook down to a thick sauce. And while I'm certain I could make the sauce on my own, it sure was handy to pop open this jar and chunk it in a pan.

The Seeds of Change sauce is made with tomatoes, onion, red and green bell pepper, coconut, sunflower oil, and loads of spices, such as cumin, coriander, ginger, and cardamom. 

Since I've never had real Indian Jalfrezi, I wasn't sure what veggies were appropriate. So I consulted this recipe for Vegetable Jalfrezi on the Seeds of Change website for some ideas. But then I totally diverted from the recipe. Here's what I came up with — Beefless Jalfrezi with Zucchini and Mushrooms Over Brown Rice:

OMG, y'all! I've eaten lots of things from jars and boxes and bags, and while I'm not picky or food snobby, I have to say that this jarred sauce outdoes them all. It truly tastes homemade. Anyway, here's the recipe I came up with using the sauce.

Beefless Jalfrezi with Zucchini and Mushrooms Over Brown Rice

1 Tbsp. avocado oil (or olive oil, but avocado oil is more fun!)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small zucchini or 1 large zucchini, diced
1 8-ounce package button mushrooms, sliced
1 bag of Gardein Beefless Tips, frozen
1 jar of Seeds of Change Jalfrezi Sauce

Heat the oil in a large skillet with a lid on medium heat. Add the onion, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute one more minute.

Add the zucchini and mushrooms and saute 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Gardein Beefless Tips and saute for about 7 to 10 minutes or until beefless tips are thawed and veggies are tender. 

Pour in the sauce. Cover. Lower heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Smoothie Fixins!

I'd like to take credit for "smoothie fixins," but I have to admit that Gena of Choosing Raw gets the props for that one. I heard her use the phrase on the Our Hen House podcast this weekend. Love it!

Anyway, this great new company, Oriya Organics, sent me two full-size tubs of their smoothie fixins to sample and review. And since I'll soon be entering into smoothie month (a.k.a. January cleanse month), they couldn't have come at a better time. Check out these big ole tubs of Superfood Protein Medley and SuperGreen Medley:

I'm saving the bulk of the powders for my Thrive Forward healthy diet in a couple weeks, but I wanted to at least give these a sneak peek so I could share my thoughts with y'all.

On Monday, it was still nice and warm outside — 60 degrees at 6 a.m.! Perfect weather for an outdoor run. I whipped up a pre-run smoothie using the Superfood Protein Medley, a cup of unsweetened Almond Breeze Coconut Almond Milk, half a banana, and some frozen mango in the blender. And then I poured it into this sweet go-cup that Oriya Organics hooked me up with:

Verdict: Tasty. The protein powder isn't sweetened like Vega is (Vega uses stevia), so my smoothie could have used a generous squirt of agave. But sweet or not, it was still tasty and not too chalky like some powders tend to be.

The protein powder is made from sprouted chia seeds, spirulina, sprouted brown rice protein, hemp protein, and chlorella. It's totally raw, non-GMO, and organic. And vegan of course! One scoop has 100 calories and 18 grams of protein. Plus, vitamin A, B12, C, E, and K. And there's lots of manganese and iron.

This morning, I woke up with a bit of a head cold. I could feel it coming on last night, and today, I'm all stuffy. I didn't feel like running, so I skipped a smoothie. But I did try some SuperGreen Medley to boost my nutrients, thinking that might help ward off my cold.

This green powder is similar to Amazing Grass powder, which I used to be practically addicted to (until I couldn't afford it anymore!). It's made with spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, and barley grass, and it's LOADED with vitamins! 190% of your vitamin A! 630% of your vitamin K! 100% of your vitamin C!

Like Amazing Grass, it's probably best enjoyed in a tasty fresh fruit smoothie, but I mixed a scoop with water and downed it like a shot of tequila:

Going down, it was a little, um, green. But I expected that. If you're going for straight nutrition, it's fine to shoot the stuff. But like I said, it'd be much more palatable in smoothie form.

I'm looking forward to trying different smoothie combos using these powders as I start to cleanse in January since the Thrive Diet pushes a smoothie a day.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Last Breakfast

As I've mentioned before, I'm embarking on a 30-day cleanse using Brendan Brazier's Thrive Forward plan beginning January 3rd. Until then, I'm eating as much of all the foods that are forbidden as I can. The Thrive Diet is free of processed foods, refined sugar, caffeine, gluten etc. Plus, it's heavy on raw foods. You know the drill.

Anyway, I'm not giving up those things forever, of course. But even 30 days sounds like forever when it's staring you in the face. So I'm living it up until New Year's Day. Every week, I make a big batch of something to warm up for breakfast. Since this is my last week of work before holiday break (we're off from Xmas Eve to New Year's Day ... with a brief work day on New Year's Eve), this is the last week for regular breakfast. Next week, I'm sure I'll be sleeping in and eating ramen for breakfast everyday, but that's another post.

What did I choose for the last regular weekday breakfast? Breakfast Burritos!

God, I love burritos stuffed with tofu scramble and vegan cheese. I've shared a breakfast burrito recipe with you before, but that one involved cooking fresh potatoes and it was way back in 2010. This one is quite similar, but it's easier because I use frozen hash browns.

Breakfast Burrito #2 (the lazier version)
1 batch Cheezy Tofu Scramble (recipe from Cookin' Crunk, but you can also find it here)
3 cups frozen, shredded hash browns
Seasoned salt, to taste
4 whole wheat burrito-sized tortilla wraps (I used Cedar's Mountain Bread)
1/2 cup Daiya Cheddar Shreds (or any other vegan cheese)
1/2 cup salsa

Prepare tofu scramble according to directions listed here. Set aside.

While the scramble cooks, spray a little nonstick cooking spray in a medium skillet. Heat on medium and add hash browns. Cook uncovered and without stirring for 10 minutes. Stir and cook until soft and lightly browned. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Set aside.

Heat one burrito wrap in the microwave for about 20 seconds to make it easier to fold. In the center, fill with 1/4 batch of the tofu scramble. Measure 1/2 cup of hash browns and place those on top of the scramble. Top with Daiya and salsa.

Fold, wrapping the two ends in first and then rolling up. I like to put my rolled-up burrito back into the microwave for about 25 seconds to help melt the Daiya.

Repeat with the other three burrito wraps. Or save the leftover filling and make a single burrito each morning.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mike's Baby Daddy Shower

I really hate to burden y'all with more baby shower pictures, but if I have to go to these things, I'm taking you all with me for moral support. At least my preggo friends always have delicious vegan food at their baby parties.

Today, my friend Mike, the daddy of my friend Shay's baby (whose shower food I showed you a couple weeks ago), had his Baby Daddy Shower. The two are co-parenting, and since they don't live together, they get to have two showers for both sides of the family.

Mike's friend Rachael hosted the party, and even though she had no idea what "vegan" entailed, she did her research and went all out to make sure we had plenty to eat. She picked up a big ole pan of Mock Chicken Nuggets (with BBQ sauce, not pictured) from the Whole Foods hot bar:

Have y'all had these things?! OMG! I've loved them for a long time, but since I typically only go to Whole Foods to shop, I forget these delicious nuggets are a staple on the hot bar.

Shay came to the shower and brought another of her famous Vegan Cheese Pizzas with homemade crust, homemade shallot-wine sauce, and Daiya cheese! I ate way too many slices!

Mike made his delicious Daiya cheese Ro-tel, which I showed y'all from the last shower. I didn't snap a great pic of it today. But I did get a pic of Mike's famous Chex Mix:

Mike makes this Chex Mix for every single party, and he always sends me home with a plastic bag full. I've shared the recipe on this blog here, and to date, it's got the most hits of anything I've ever posted.

We had plenty of sweets too! Mike made Red Velvet Cookies, which I was too full to try:

And Rachael picked up three kinds of cookies from Whole Foods (I had the peanut butter ones!), and Mike also made Snickerdoodles:

Anyway, sitting through the baby present opening wasn't so much fun since I'm not into babies and their accessories. But the food made everything worth it!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


That's a new word for me.
Veganissimo — 1 n: one who is vegan to the highest possible standard; 2 adj: the most vegan
So basically, a gold star super-vegan. That's probably not me. I do as good I can, but I don't fret if I accidentally drink wine processed with egg albumin or eat a slice of buttered bread in a restaurant. I do, however, try to learn from my mistakes. We can only try to be the best vegans we can be, but it's normal to slip up from time to time. And it's nearly impossible to be totally vegan, since things like car tires contain animal products and our prescribed medications are likely tested on animals.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to be veganissimo. And there's a new book out that can help you and me be the best vegans we can be. It's called Veganissimo A to Z: A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Avoiding Ingredients of Animal Origin in Everyday Products.

Veganissimo isn't what you'd consider a pleasure read. It's a guide, plain and simple. Inside the pages of this pocket-sized volume are more than 2,500 entries for obscure animal ingredients and safe plant-based ones. Each entry is defined, and it has little symbols that let you know whether it's made from animals, plants, or both. The symbols also indicate whether something is mineral, synthetic, or microbiological.


Let's do a little quiz. Here are two terms I pulled from the book. Guess which one is always vegan and which one always comes from animals.
* Hydrogenated Orange Roughy Oil
* Butyrospermum Parkii Butter Unsaponifiables
I intentionally picked names that I figured would throw you off, but the Parkii Butter stuff is from vegetables (it's related to shea butter and is used as an emollient in cosmetics). The Orange Roughy Oil comes from killed animals, and it's used as an emollient and skin conditioner in cosmetics too. Did you guess right? If so, you're pretty darn veganissmo!

Anyway, you too can be a vegan expert with this handy little volume. I have an app on my iPhone that also tells me about animal ingredients, but I don't think its nearly as comprehensive as this book. Plus, the book is purse-sized, so it's easy to carry around.