Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Dream of 2008 Is Alive In My Kitchen

Remember 2008? Can you believe that was 5 years ago! Well, back in 2008, the vegan blogosphere was all aflutter with love for the Isa and Terry's Chickpea Cutlet from Veganomicon. Quick trivia question! Anyone remember when Veganomicon was released?

If you said "November 2007," you would be correct. So it makes sense that the chickpea cutlet recipe was all the rage in early 2008. I was on the chickpea cutlet love bandwagon. I posted about it here and here and here (and I even included a recipe for Curried Pattypan Squash & "Chicken" Saute Over Quinoa using chickpea cutlets).

Anyway, in an effort to gain back some of my lost youth (I was still in my late 20s in 2008!), I decided to take it back to the old school with Chickpea Cutlets this week:

These meaty cutlets are made with mashed chickpeas, gluten flour, and spices. And they're just as toothsome as any pre-made plant meat. I smothered this one with some onion gravy that I'd been saving in my freezer. Yes, gravy freezes beautifully in case you've ever wondered.

I served my cutlet with Joni's Mac & Cheese from Vegan Food Gifts and some canned green beans topped with Phoney Baloney's Coconut Bacon:

And for a close-up of those beans. Canned green beans may sound boring, but trust me, coconut bacon makes them magical. But coconut bacon can make anything magical:

What were you doing in 2008?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Vegan Meetup!

A week or so ago, I got an email from a guy interested in buying a couple copies of my cookbook. He's a local guy, and he wanted to know where he could find my book without having to have it shipped. I replied with a list of local stores that carry Cookin' Crunk — Whole Foods, Booksellers at Laurelwood, Burke's —and I also offered to meet him somewhere if he wanted to buy signed copies directly from me.

This was shortly after I'd posted a review of Vegan Secret Supper by Merida Anderson, and in that post, I whined about how I wished someone would local would start a vegan supper club. So Chris, the email guy, suggested I come by his family's house for a vegan dinner. He'd invite some friends. I could invite some friends. I could hand over the signed cookbooks. Why not?

So that was Saturday night. Paul and I drove to Bartlett to meet the Harrises and their friends, the Newsomes, for dinner at Chris and Amanda Harris' home. Perfect strangers, just like Larry and Balki (okay, I know that lame joke dates me ... I don't care). Everyone at the party was vegan except for Paul and Chris and Amanda's son Nate (he's working on it though). Oh, and the dog Rosie.

Amanda did the cooking for the dinner party. She started with a fantastic Mushroom Bourguignon served over vegan-buttered French bread and a salad with homemade vegan ranch:

This was amazing, y'all. Everything was delicious. The rich wine sauce soaked into the buttery bread, and the mushrooms were all nice and meaty. Even Paul loved it, and he's such a picky omni. Oh, and that vegan ranch? I could have chugged the whole bottle, but that wouldn't have been appropriate for a dinner party with new friends.

After dinner and a glass of wine or two, we had dessert — Strawberry Cobbler and Rice Dream:

I wish my iPhone camera had done a better job with this photo. The color is all off, but let me tell you. This was the perfect spring dessert — sweet, ripe berries tucked into a crisp, buttery cobbler crust paired with cold, vanilla ice cream.

We stayed for an hour so past dinner, just chatting about all kinds of stuff — coffee, Skrillex, East Coast/West Coast 90s rap drama, baseball memorabilia, tattoos, India, and of course, veganism.

Before we left, I had Paul snap a picture of the supper club crew:

Left to right, top to bottom: Elizabeth, Eric, Rachel, Amanda, Chris, Houston, Hannah, and me.

Anyway, it was a blast meeting new vegan friends! Thanks Chris and Amanda for having us over!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale Success!

Our Memphis veggie group, Food Awareness, held our second annual Memphis Vegan Bake Sale this past Friday night. Our sale is in conjunction with the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, and ours always benefits the Memphis & Shelby County Humane Society.

Grawemeyer's, a German-American restaurant on South Main, graciously let us use the space in front of their shop again this year. Our sale took place during the monthly South Main Art Trolley Tour, when art galleries along South Main (one of the city's art districts) have openings and other special events going on. We had the sale on that night last year too, and since we had perfect weather last year, we had tons of foot traffic.

But this year, Mother Nature decided to bring a few thundershowers through, so we had less traffic. And every time the sprinkles started, we had to pull our tables under the restaurant's awning. But despite the crappy weather and having less business than last year, we still raised $600 for the Humane Society, only $100 less than last year! Go us!

Cassi and I both ordered Vegan Bake Sale tees from the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale website!

We had so many contributions from Memphis' most talented vegan bakers. I mean, bakers came out of the woodwork for this!! We filled up two long tables with sweets, and bakers kept dropping things off throughout the night. So I'll just apologize now for this incredibly epic photo-heavy post. I made Vanilla Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World because they were easy and cute:

And I made White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Blondies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. Here there are before packaging:

And there they are all wrapped up and ready to sell:

I also made from Lemon Cooler Cookies (shortbread balls rolled in a lemony powdered sugar) from Vegan Food Gifts. Also pictured here are Nicole Dorsey's Cranberry-Ginger Cookies:

Stephanie (Poopie Bitch on the PPK) of Swell Baked Goods brought all kinds of awesomeness.

She made several savory items to go against the bake sale grain. And, of course, she had sweets too. There's were Olive Boules (mini bread bowls!), Cheezy Chive Scones, Cheezy Bacon Scones (made with coconut bacon!), Chocolate Whoopie Pies, Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, and Cherry Berry Crumb Cake:

Cassi, a friend of mine who just went vegan a month or so ago, made these Almond Butter Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies. They were low-cal and gluten-free!

Leslie, my friend who is obsessed with all things Indian, made some Indian treats. There were Masala Tea Cakes and Rava Ladus (creamed rice and cashew balls):

And she made Coconut Burfi! If you've never had burfi, you're missing out. It's like Indian milk fudge minus the chocolate. So good! It was almost gone when I snapped this pic!

Shay took some time out from being a new mom to make some super-duper Fudgey Brownies!

Treats with a Twist blogger Melissa Kerras made these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls (I forgot to write "peanut butter" on the label, but I'm sure people could figure it out ... they smelled heavenly), which were gone before I had a chance to buy some:

She also made these amazing Chocolate Chunk Cookies. And yes, I did get to sample those. Yum!

Dawn Vinson of the Downtown Memphis Commission made Chocolate Chip Cookies and Key Lime Raspberry Bars. I didn't get to try either, but I heard people raving about those lime bars all night!

Amy Schiller made three delicious treats! Orange Cupcakes!

Peanut Butter Blondies (I just had one today ... OMG!). People were raving about these all night:

And Cheezy Popcorn (made with nooch):

Valerie, who maintains the Memphis Vegetarians/Vegans Facebook page, brought some delicious Orange Cranberry Scones with a Vanilla Icing:

And she made some crazy awesome gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies using the Babycakes recipe. Behind her cookies are some delicious Cowboy Cookies (chocolate chip, coconut, oats, and pecans) made by a generous mystery baker. Her husband dropped them off at the start of the bake sale and just said his wife baked these to contribute. How awesome!

Vivian made some Chocolate Coma Cupcakes (these had chocolate chips inside!). So good! I had a leftover one yesterday. Yum, yum, yum!

I forgot to photograph a few more goods that arrived after the sale started. I'm missing a picture of Deirdre and Hannah's scrumptious Cake Balls. And I'm lacking a picture of Katie's Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Candy. But I can attest that both were very yummy! I tried to buy many of the treats at the sale for myself before they were all gone.

I do, however, have a picture of our bake sale mascot — Flicka! Katie, who does some PR work for the Humane Society, brought an adoptable pit mix named Flicka to meet and greet the customers. She only jumped on the table and tried to steal a cupcake once. Flicka was so well-behaved and such a charmer. She came from a bad situation, and when she was rescued, she was all skin and bones. But look at her now! She's up for adoption at the Memphis Humane Society if you're interested!

Thanks to all the amazing vegan bakers! And thanks to all of our customers for helping us raise money for pups like Flicka!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fried Okra for One!

Before I get into tonight's post, I need to remind y'all about Friday's Memphis Vegan Bake Sale! If you're local, stop by the South Main Art Trolley Tour from 6 to 9 p.m., and pick up some cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and other treats to benefit the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. I hear there will be some savory treats too (vegan bacon cheddar scones, anyone?).

Now, about that fried okra. A couple night's ago, I was craving fried okra. But we all know that fried food doesn't reheat so well. So what's a girl to do when she just wants a single serving of fried okra? Well, here's what.

Fried Okra for One
2 Tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp. cornmeal
Pinch of Cajun seasoning salt
Pinch of garlic powder
Pinch of onion powder
Pinch of paprika
1/2 cup sliced okra
2 Tbsp. coconut oil 
Mix together the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed pan.

Toss the okra slices into the flour mixture and toss until all slices are evenly coated (note: there's no need to dip okra in any kind of binding agent or liquid first because okra's natural sliminess helps the flour mix stick).

When the oil is hot, carefully drop the okra slices into the pan. Stir to coat. Allow to fry for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until okra is browned.

Drain on paper towels before serving.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Eat Out for a Cause!

If you're a Memphis reader, you definitely have TWO chances to eat out for great causes this week. And if you're a reader who lives elsewhere in the U.S., you may still have TWO great chances to help people and animals while dining out.

Dining Out for Life
Thursday, April 25th is Dining Out for Life, a day that restaurants all over the country elect to donate a portion of their proceeds from that day's sales to organizations that help people living with HIV/AIDS.

If you're in Memphis, you have more than 30 restaurants to choose from. And guess what? One of those is Imagine Vegan Cafe! They're giving 50 percent of their lunch and dinner sales to Friends for Life, a nonprofit that helps people with HIV/AIDS through housing programs, wellness education, a food pantry, and support services. They also provide free HIV tests and prevention services to people all over the region.

If you stop by Imagine Vegan Cafe on Thursday night, I'll be there as the Friends for Life ambassador, meaning I have to go table-to-table to talk to folks about FFL's programs. But there are plenty of other local restaurants to choose from. I posted the entire list on Memphis Gaydar, my LGBT blog for the Memphis Flyer.

If you're not local, that's okay! Plenty of other major cities participate in Dining Out for Life on Thursday. Check out the website to see if there are any participating restaurants in your area.

Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale
Now, for chance #2 to help out while eating out.

Here's a shot from last year's bake sale. And yes, Vaughan is dressed in vegetables.

On Friday, April 26th, Food Awareness, our local veggie club, is hosting our second annual Memphis Vegan Bake Sale in conjunction with the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale. We'll be set up outside of Grawemeyer's restaurant at 520 S. Main during the Art Trolley Tour from 6 to 9 p.m.

And all the money from every cupcake, cookie, pie, scone, brownie, or whatever that we sell will be donated to the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County. Last year, we raised $700!

There's a chance we may even have an adorable, adoptable pup from the Humane Society hanging out with us, because who can deny buying a cupcake from an adorable pup?

If you're not in Memphis, check out the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale site to find a sale in your area. They're being held all week all over the world!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Desserts Can Be Practical!

I had the pleasure of spending much of my free time at Vida Vegan Con in 2011 with Ms. Amber Shea Crawley and her husband Matt. This was before she was cookbook famous! Now Amber is pumping out raw cookbooks, like, every year!

Okay, well, for at least the last two years. Amber's sophomore follow-up to last year's Practically Raw is all about the sweet stuff. That's right, Practically Raw Desserts is finally here! And every page boasts a full-color, mouth-watering photo of healthy desserts (many of which look deceptively sinful!).

There are chapters for cookies, brownies and bars, cakes and cupcakes, pie, puddings and ice creams, and even candies, truffles, and fudge. But everything is totally healthy because the desserts are raw and made with wholesome ingredients. The beautifully frosted Devil's Food Cupcakes are made with applesauce, almond flour, cacao, powder, and maple syrup! And the Coco-Nana Cream Pie is made with coconut, almonds, bananas, and coconut butter!

For many recipes, Amber includes a baked version. So those recipes can be totally raw or not at all, depending on your preference. She also includes substitutions and variations for nearly every recipe. For example, if you don't have coconut nectar to make the Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart with Macaroon Crust, Amber lists other things you can use instead: maple syrup, agave nectar, or other liquid sweeteners.

While I really wanted to try some cake (the Enlightened Carrot Cake with Tangy Cream Cheese Icing was calling my name), I don't have access to coconut flour, and Amber says it cannot be substituted. In fact, most of the cakes and some brownies call for coconut flour. Rest assured: Most of the ingredients in the book are easy to come by. As far as I can tell, coconut flour is the one thing I cannot get my hands on locally. Amber actually includes instructions for making your own flours from almonds and cashews, as well as recipes for homemade nut milks. But coconut flour must be purchased.

I'm sure I can order some online, and I very well may. But since I didn't have any on-hand, I decided to try something with ingredients I can easily find in Memphis. I needed some more bars for pre-run snacks, so I picked the Goji Berry Granola Bars:

I went with the baked variation instead of making them raw in a dehydrator as the book suggests. I have an awesome dehydrator, and I love any excuse to use it. But I started these last night, and there just wasn't time for them to dehydrate for 6 to 8 hours before I would wake up to run and need to eat one.

Anyway, these baked bars were out of this world good! The perfect blend of chewy, soft, mapley sweet goodness. They're made from oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, and goji berries blended with a delicious maple-tahini sauce. After baking for about 20 minutes, these little guys were toasty and bound together. They held up wonderfully when I sliced the bars for storage.

I also tried the Cocoa Crunch Clusters, because Amber's publisher released this recipe to share with blog readers on her cookbook tour:

These are so simple! Just three ingredients — raisins, coconut, and cacao nibs. That's it. They're sweet and chocolatey. A perfect snack for a light to moderate workout.

Here's that recipe, as promised.

Cocoa Crunch Clusters
Reprinted with permission from Practically Raw Desserts

1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1/2 cup cacao nibs
Big pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is sticky and well-combined. Rolls into balls of any size and refrigerate until firm.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If frozen, bring them to room temperature before serving.

Raisins: dried cherries, golden raisins, or 1 1/4 cups pitted dates

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vegan Chicken Pesto Pizza Madness!

You know what? I completely forgot to announce the winner of the Happy Herbivore Abroad giveaway in last night's post. So congrats, Adriana, who according to her comment is a lover of the delicious tofu banh mi sandwich. Me too, Adriana, me too. Anyway, congrats!

Also, the lovely and awesome River of Wing It Vegan wrote the nicest, most food porn heavy, most comprehensive review of Cookin' Crunk to date. River and I are long-time blog buds, and she even tested for Cookin' Crunk several years ago. Check it out.

Now onto tonight's dinner. But let's back up a bit. You see, tonight's dinner started with a trip to the Memphis Farmers Market on opening day three Saturdays ago. I was meandering around the market space and trying to dodge bodies (our market was so crowded on opening day!) all while looking for something to catch my eye, when lo and behold, I spotted this:

A nice lady and man were selling all sorts of jarred goodies. They had regular dairy-based pesto and vegan pesto! Apparently, the lady's son was vegan for a time, and she learned to make a vegan version of everything! Well, I couldn't not buy this, right?

But what to do with a small jar of pesto? It was $8, so I wanted to save it for something special. And that's when it hit me. I've never had a chicken pesto pizza. But I see people eating them, and I get a little sad that I can't have any because it's not vegan. So I whipped up a pizza crust using my fave recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance, and I splurged on Morningstar Farms Chick'n Strips and Daiya Jalapeno-Garlic Havarti. And I made my own Vegan Chicken Pesto Pizza!

This was just glorious! Look how the chicken and vegan cheese got those little browned bits in the oven. Perfection. And the homemade, local pesto was the perfect complement to the chicken and super-melty Daiya havarti.

I mean, just look at that slice!

Here's the pseudo-recipe.

Vegan Chicken Pesto Pizza
1 whole wheat pizza crust (I used the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance)
6 Tbsp. vegan pesto
12 strips of Morningstar Farms Chick'n Strips Meal Starters
1/2 wedge of Daiya Jalapeno-Garlic Havarti, grated

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Stretch the dough onto a pizza pan. Assemble the pizza by spreading the pesto on first, leaving a little room at the edge for the crust. Top with chicken strips and cheese. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Kombucha: A Tutorial

A few months ago, I caught a deal on Vegan Cuts advertising a discounted kombucha starter kit from Oregon Kombucha. The deal is still available by the way — $11 for a kit with a starter SCOBY, a flavored tea of your choice, and detailed instructions on how to get started.

I love kombucha! P.S. This picture was taken way back in January.

I've been buying that high-priced, bottled kombucha at Whole Foods for far too long, and I'm tired of throwing money away on it. So I figured it was high-time I start brewing my own booch. I ordered that Oregon Kombucha kit, and since then, I've brewed jar after jar of the tart, fizzy fermented tea.

For my readers who aren't familiar with kombucha, it's a fermented tea that's heavy on probiotics. It has a vinegar-y twang with a carbonated fizziness. And it's most definitely an acquired taste. I thought the stuff was disgusting when I first tried a sip of the bottled stuff. But now I'm addicted to that tart flavor. To make it, you brew a batch of sweet tea with a mushroom culture called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) for several weeks.

So how do you brew the booch? I'll walk you through step-by-step.

1) Acquire a SCOBY.
To ferment tea, you must start with a mother SCOBY. You can order your SCOBY online (see this deal on Vegan Cuts). Or if you know someone who brews kombucha, just ask them for a SCOBY. Every kombucha brewer has a fridge full of SCOBYs, because every time you brew a batch, the mother SCOBY makes a baby SCOBY. The babies can be stored in the fridge and re-used over and over again. So all you'll ever need to start a lucrative brewing hobby is one starter SCOBY.

This is a SCOBY! It looks really nasty, but it's just a mushroom. Nothing to fear.

2) Brew a gallon of tea.
I use 12 small tea bags for this, but you can use larger ones or even loose tea if you please. Flavored teas are a great way to make flavored kombucha, or you can go with a simple green tea and flavor the booch after fermentation (more on that in a few). If you are using a flavored tea, avoid teas flavored with oils (such as Earl Gray) because they can kill your SCOBY.

3) Sweeten the tea.
Pour your hot tea in a gallon jar, and add one cup of evaporated cane juice or sugar. The sugar is what the culture feeds on, so it's an important step.

4) Allow the tea to cool overnight.
The tea MUST be cool when you add your SCOBY later, so give it plenty of time to cool.

5) Add your SCOBY.
Place your mushroom into the gallon jar, and pour in one cup of kombucha liquid. If you order a kit, it will likely contain a SCOBY floating in kombucha liquid. But if you get a SCOBY from a friend, you'll need to ask them to pour you out a little liquid.

Kombucha with both a mama and a baby SCOBY

6) Place a cheesecloth or rag over the top and store in a warm, dark place for 7 to 30 days.
How long it takes to brew depends on the temperature and how tart you want the flavor to be. Kombucha ferments best when the room temp is between 70 and 80 degrees, so you'll have faster batches in the summer. The longer it sits, the tarter it gets. Since I like a very strong, tart kombucha, I brew mine for a full 30 days in the winter. I haven't brewed yet in summer, so I'm not sure how much that will affect the time. Also, if your house is very cold in the winter, you might want to place a heating pad under the jar as it brews.

7) When desired flavor is reached, remove the SCOBY and the baby and store them.
Store the SCOBYs in one cup of the kombucha you just brewed and keep it in an airtight bowl with a lid in the fridge. After your first batch, you should have a mother and baby SCOBY. Always save your SCOBYs because they can be used again and again.

8) Transfer the kombucha into glass containers.
Some folks store their booch in glass Grolsh-style beer bottles with the flip-tops. I don't have those yet, so I used two large jars with glass lids. You can also use Mason jars, but if so, get the plastic screw-on replacement lids. Do not use metal lids for your kombucha.

I store my kombucha in large glass jars with glass lids.
9) Allow the kombucha to go into secondary fermentation.
This step allows the kombucha to get extra fizzy. All you have to do is place the jars of finished kombucha on a countertop and leave them alone for 2 to 14 days. Also, if you're flavoring your booch with fresh fruit or fruit juice, this is the time to do it. Add those flavorings and allow them to meld as it goes into secondary fermentation.

10) Store kombucha in the fridge and enjoy!
I have a glass of kombucha every night before bed. Sometimes I flavor my batches with all-natural fruit juice. Last month, I added bottled R.W Kudsen blueberry nectar, and the kombucha was amazing! This month, I'm experimenting with adding simple syrups upon serving. I made an orange-vanilla simple syrup a couple night ago, and I've been adding 1-2 tablespoons to every 8-ounce glass.

Dress up kombucha with flavored simple syrups.

To make the syrup, I combined 2 cups evaporated cane juice with 2 cups water. I let the mixture heat in a saucepan over medium heat so the sugar could dissolve. Then I added the zest of one orange, the juice of one orange, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. I let that simmer for 20 minutes.

You can also make kombucha cocktails!! Vodka is an excellent addition. Right now, I'm sipping on a cocktail with 8 ounces of green tea kombucha, 2 ounces vodka, and 1 ounce of orange-vanilla simple syrup. Yum!

Once you remove the SCOBY from your first batch, brew another gallon of tea and start all over. I have kombucha brewing at all times now.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

From Philly to Memphis

For my latest cookbook project, I'm veganizing trendy foods of the 20th century and organizing the recipes by decade. And that means I've been doing a ton of food research. I've run across some fascinating stuff. For example, did you know the Philly cheesesteak was invented in the 1930s?

Pat and Harry Olivieri first started selling steak sandwiches served on long rolls at their Philly hot dog stand in the 30s. The sandwiches took off, and Pat eventually opened Pat's King of Steaks, which is apparently still around.

For my 1930s chapter, I wanted to create a vegan Philly Cheesesteak. Now there are plenty of great cruelty-free cheesesteak recipes out there already, but can the world really have too many cheesy, meaty vegan sandwiches?

I opted to make my "steak" using a homemade steamed seitan, which I'm also including a recipe for in the book. The seitan is rolled into a log shape, wrapped in foil, and steamed. And that makes for a sliceable seitan that resembles deli meat.

But plain, sliced seitan is a little bland for a cheesesteak. So I chopped some mushrooms and fried 'em up with the sliced seitan. Then I made a small amount of thick beefy gravy to pour over the "meat." I let that cook until all the liquid was absorbed and the seitan and mushrooms were nice and brown.

The bread is toasted and buttered (aka Earth Balanced), and the seitan is topped with shredded Daiya cheddar. I'm sure old Pat and Harry wouldn't consider it a "real" cheesesteak. But that's okay. I'm a Memphis girl, so it'll have to do. It sure was delicious though!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Imagine Vegan Cafe's New Home! And New Menu!

A few weeks ago, I reported here that my favorite home-away-from-home, Imagine Vegan Cafe, was moving to a new location. After a much-deserved family vacation to Asheville, owners Adam and Kristie Jeffrey have re-opened Imagine Vegan Cafe in its new, way cuter location!

OMG! Don't you just want to eat that up? It's so cute it kinda hurts. Before, Imagine was located in a shopfront in a row of identical shops. The dining area was all in one big giant room. But now, Imagine is in a house! There are three small dining areas inside three rooms in the house. Another room serves as the counter area, where you order and pay. And best of all, they have a big dessert cooler at the counter, so they can now sell cold pies and cheesecakes!! Oh, and let's not forget the front porch patio dining areas.

Since I spend at least one night a week here, I'm so pleased that the place is super-adorbs. Ambiance is almost everything! Of course, the food has to be amazing too. And it's stellar as always, but there are some new menu items designed to please a wider audience.

Imagine specializes in vegan comfort food (pizzas, philly cheesesteaks, country fried steak, cheese sticks, milkshakes, etc.). But apparently, there are SOME vegans who actually prefer to eat healthier stuff, like veggies, when they dine out. Ha! I kid, I kid. But for real, they had gotten requests to add more veggie-based options to the menu and some more gluten-free items as well. Thankfully, they've kept all the faux meats that I like while adding the new stuff.

Tonight, I wanted to try one of the new healthier items. I ordered the Southern Staple (collards, brown rice, black beans, and a garlic aioli):

This was so good! That garlic aioli was just pure magic, my friends. Other new dishes include: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Fresh Veggies, Tony's Nachos (chips with cheese and jalapenos, named for regular customer and nacho lover, Tony), Spinach Salad (with strawberries and walnuts), Entree Salad (big version of their side garden salad), Wraps (hummus, portabella, or vegan chicken), the Big Smack (vegan Big Mac!), BLT with Avocado, Portabella Sandwich, Fajitas (steak, chicken, or portabella), Veggie Stir-fry (you can add chicken or steak if you want). Also, you can now get nooch as a pizza topping. There are also a few new sides — Grits, Garlic Toast, and Garlic Kale.

My friend Cassi was mega-excited about the kale! She ate most of this dish before I snapped the picture.

Also, since they have the dessert display cooler, Imagine is now selling cheesecakes, cold pies, and other refrigerated desserts, like lemon bars, in addition to the usual cupcakes, layer cakes, cookie sandwiches, and brownies. My friend Stephanie of Swell Baked Goods makes fresh desserts every Wednesday.

I ordered a slice of the Mocha Cheesecake. So good! A chocolate graham-style crust, a layer of rich, smooth mocha cheesecake, and a layer of solid chocolate shell.

Paul ordered a slice of the Key Lime Pie to enjoy on his birthday this coming Friday. He has to keep his hands off this for two days! Yes, it will be next to impossible:

Imagine Vegan Cafe is now located at 2299 Young Avenue. Click here for their full menu.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Happy Herbivore Abroad Giveaway!!!

Remember last week when I blogged about Lindsay Nixon's new Happy Herbivore Abroad cookbook? You know, the one loaded with simple, low-fat, vegan, international cuisine, full-color photos, and stories of Lindsay's world travels?

Well, I was supposed to also host a giveaway, thanks to her generous publisher. But I forgot! So we'll do that today.

If you'd like to read a review (and see pics of her Pasta e fagioli and her Blueberry Bundt Cake) of Happy Herbivore Abroad, check out my post from last Thursday. If you want to win a copy, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post letting me know your favorite international food. And by that, I mean, a dish from a country that you don't live in.

Despite the international theme here, the contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, per the publisher's rules.

I'll randomly select one winner on Sunday evening! Good luck!

Oh, and as always with these contests, if your comment isn't linked back to a blog with a way to contact you, please leave me your email address in the comment so I can contact you if you win.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Soak Your Nuts

Hahaha! I can't even write that blog post title without snickering like a 12-year-old boy. Raw food guru/restauranteur Karyn Calabrese has successfully come up with the very best vegan cookbook title ever with Soak Your Nuts. Yes, I'm that girl who laughs every time I say "nut cheese" or "nut bag." Those are phrases that, if you're not vegan, might actually warrant a giggle since they're probably not something you say very often — or ever.

But for vegans, soaking your nuts for cashew cheeses, raw ranch dressing, or live pie crust is a fact of life. Yet I still find the whole thing hilarious. What's even better is Karyn's lovely and very sophisticated face graces the book's cover. This woman owns five businesses and sleeps on four hours a night. She doesn't look or seem like a lady who would smirk about soaking nuts. But apparently, she has a great sense of humor, so I was immediately biased in favor of this book before ever cracking it open.

Thankfully, the awesomeness inside lives up to the title. And since the Book Publishing Company has re-released Karyn's book in a double-book format, it's even better! One side is Karyn's Raw Recipes. Then you flip it over, and the other side is Karyn's Conscious Comfort Foods (all cooked deliciousness).

Both sides are filled with mouth-watering dishes and a few color pictures. On the raw side, there's raw Nacho Chips (made with dehydrated flax, corn, bell peppers, onion, and spices), Onion Crisps (raw onion rings!), raw Falafel in raw Pita Bread, raw Bean Burros (like burritos made with cabbage wraps and soaked, food-processed raw adzuki beans), Nutty Pimiento Cheese (made with cashews), and raw Banana Pudding.

On the cooked side, there's Slab o' Tofu Ribs, Veggie-Potato Pot Pies, Curry-Cashew Pasta, Sprouted Black Bean Soup, and No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (made with a pretzel crust and a coconut-cashew cream topping!).

I wanted to try something from each side for last night's dinner. I chose my entree from the cooked side — Jerk Tofu Wraps:

There really aren't words to describe how amazing this was. The tofu is just pan-fried and plain, which might sound boring. But the sauces on this wrap are so ridiculously flavorful that the plain tofu totally makes sense. The jerk sauce is a combo of BBQ sauce and lots of spicy jerk seasoning. And then there's a garlic sauce that really sets this wrap over the top. It's made with raw garlic, soymilk, parsley, and sugar. And IT IS SO GOOD. I wrapped it all up in an Ezekial sprouted grain tortilla.

On the side, I chose a recipe from the book's raw side — Curried Cauliflower Salad:

This is unlike any other salad I've had before. The veggies are orange cauliflower, sliced red and orange peppers, and red onions. All are generously tossed with a cashew-based curry dressing that could make even the blandest raw veggie taste like magic.

So Soak Your Nuts completely lives up to its awesome name. You should probably pick up a copy and get to soakin' your own nuts.