Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Original Sprout Haircare Products

Happy New Year!

Now let's talk about vegan haircare! A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a company called Original Sprout asking if I'd like to review their products. Before reading the entire email, I assumed they sold sprouts or maybe sprouting jars. But come to find out, they make vegan haircare and styling products. Just what I needed!

You see, I'm a hair girl. I don't care about shoes. Or fancy handbags. Or manicures. Or fashion. But I do care about hair. I've been known to change my hair color at least once every six months, and I'm constantly cutting it all off, letting it grow out, or trying something new. But I always end up with a style that requires a little extra work. I like products. In fact, if I leave the house without enough product in my hair, I feel kinda naked all day.

Anyway, it's hard to find good salon-quality vegan hair products. So I jumped at the chance to review Original Sprout's line. They sent me their Natural Shampoo and Deep Conditioner.

And their Natural Styling Balm. (UPDATE: This styling balm is NOT VEGAN. Thanks to a couple commenters for pointing that out! I received these products, assuming they were vegan since Original Sprout knew I had a vegan blog. But turns out the balm contains lanolin. The shampoo and conditioner are vegan though!)

First, I washed and conditioned with their products, and my hair felt great afterward. I have baby-fine hair, and too much conditioning leaves it flatter than flat. But Original Sprout's conditioner had just enough moisture to keep my hair from being dry (from all the dyes and other crap I've put in it over the years) without over-moisturizing.

Next, I tried the styling balm (because I thought it was vegan). I've been using Kevin.Murphy Gritty Business to texturize my pixie cut. It's cruelty-free and salon-quality. And while I love that stuff, I also loved the Original Sprout. It's a softer texture paste than what I'm used to. And I had to be careful not to use too much. A little goes a long way. But it was great for pulling out pieces of hair to give my 'do the choppy look that I love so much. Here's my hair after using all three products. (Sadly, I won't be using the balm anymore, but I'll be sure to pass it along to a vegetarian friend with great hair!).

By the way, my hair isn't that red right now. I wish it was! That was a filter in my Camera Plus app. Anyway, loved Original Sprout's shampoo and conditioner!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Vegan Drinks Night Out

Sorry for not posting last night. I apparently have the flu or a bad cold of some sort. I woke up Sunday morning with a fever that stuck around all day yesterday, and I felt sure I was dying. I couldn't even think straight to blog. Today, the fever is gone but I still feel pretty crappy.

But before I got sick, on Saturday night, we had our monthly Vegan Drinks meetup. We typically meet on a Tuesday night during happy hour time. But with this month's Eve holidays falling on Tuesdays, it didn't work out as normal. So we had a Saturday night meetup on December 28th. We met up for drinks and dinner at Mulan, an Asian bistro in Cooper-Young. To start, I ordered a Kirin Ichiban.

Cassi had to go with something pink and girly. I forgot the name of this but it was some sort of sparkling flower water sake.

Autumn chose a very generous and overflowing frozen margarita.

And Vaughan and Nicole split a sake.

Mulan has a good number of tofu dishes to choose from. I (and several other people at our table) went with the Kung Pao Tofu. I love Mulan's crispy tofu, and the peanuts and water chesnuts in this dish were crunchy and perfect.

Cassi ordered the Homestyle Tofu. I'm not sure what was in this, but I know she subbed out green beans for the peppers in the dish. (By the way, if you're wondering why Cassi's boobs say "straight," it's part of her "I'm straight, but I love my gay friends" tee). By the way, Cassi posted about Vegan Drinks on her blog, The Pretty in Pink Vegan too.

After dinner, most of us moved the party to Side Street Grill's Magnolia Room, where Autumn (the margarita drinker mentioned above) performed a burlesque routine.

Well, I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully feeling even better. I've got to get better for New Year's party time!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Obligatory Christmas Photo Dump

Well, it's over. No more presents. No more excuses for gluttony (at least until Dec. 31st). But great times were had, and mountains of food were consumed over Christmas and Christmas Eve. Hope your holiday was swell! Here's a recap of mine.

On Christmas Eve, I made the hour-long trip to my parents house in Jonesboro, and I arrived just in time for our traditional Xmas Eve Chinese takeout dinner. The restaurant my mama had in mind closed at 6 p.m. for the holiday, and I got to town around 4:45 p.m. We went straight to King Khan's Crazy Mongolian Stir-fry. It's one of those build-your-own-stir-fry bars, where you stuff a bowl with veggies, spices, protein, and sauce. Then you pick a starch, and the chef fries it up. They use veggie oil here, so it's vegan. And there's tofu in the protein section.

I got a Tofu & Veggie Stir-Fry with Bourbon-Sweet Chili Sauce and Rice Noodles.

After dinner, we went back to my parents house and watched Bad Santa and drank mulled wine. Later in the night, I met up with my best friend Sheridan to exchange presents. Her partner Drew made me a tee-shirt, and she gave me leggings and an awesome avocado purse.

On Xmas morning, we always go to my Granny's house for a big ole holiday breakfast.

Granny makes the meaty/eggy stuff, and my mama brings vegan versions of everything just for me. Here's my plate — Homemade Biscuits, Country Gravy, Vegan Sausage, Tofu-Olive Scramble, and a Hash Brown.

After breakfast, we went back to my parents house to open gifts. My parents got me lots of awesome stuff this year (clothes, vegan queso, PJs, yoga pants), but the best gift of all is my Breville juicer! My old Jack Lalanne juicer died a few months back, so I borrowed Cassi's Breville. And I didn't want to give it back. I had to have one of my own! This will be perfect for my January Crazy Sexy Diet cleanse.

My parents also got me this too-cool-for-school cat purse from Etsy!

After presents, my mama made us some Catalina Salads (iceberg, Daiya cheese, ranch beans, Fritos, and catalina dressing). Nothing beats a junk food salad! This was so good.

I loaded up my car and drove home after lunch. I had to prepare for my first holiday dinner at home. Most years, I drive up to Paul's family celebration in Nashville after Christmas breakfast in Jonesboro. It's about 4 to 5 hours away, but I typically spend the night there on Christmas night. But this year, Paul had to work the next day and planned to drive home that night. And I didn't want to drive all the way up there, stay for a couple hours, and drive the four hours back. Ugh. Too much driving in one day.

Instead, I invited my friend Greg over and we made a vegan Christmas dinner for the two of us. Greg spends most holidays alone because his family is so far away, and he's not really into holidays anyway. But he likes to eat, so I knew he'd be down for dinner.

We made a Field Roast Celebration Roast, Mashed Potatoes and Oyster Mushroom Gravy, Matzoh Stuffing (from a box!), and Green Beans. Oh, and I opened up a can of vegan (and kosher) jellied cranberry sauce. I'm usually a fan of homemade everything, but this was a quick dinner.

Well, that's all. I'm off work until January 2nd, so I'll be lazing around for this week and most of next. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Pooh Christmas

On Sunday, my friend Cassi held a holiday luncheon at her house for a few of her closest friends. It was her way of giving all of her gifts out at once (and an excuse to cook a nice meal and drink wine during the day).

When we walked into Cassi's living room, where she'd set up a long dining table, we were instructed to sit wherever we wanted. But we were warned that Winnie the Pooh-themed place cards would determine where we actually sat. Problem was, none of these place cards had our real names on them. They just had names of Winnie the Pooh characters, and once all the guests arrived, we had to figure out which one we were.

Cassi said she was Christopher Robin, since he didn't have one best friend but lots of great friends. Each of us made up the rest of the gang. After a little deliberation, we determined that I was Pooh Bear! Here's my card. (And where he says that Pooh loves honey, it really means "wine").

We opened our presents next. Cassi made homemade wine glasses from repurposed wine bottles and we each got a Pooh book. Mine was Pooh's Little Fitness Book. Then it was time to eat. Cassi made the Manicotti with a Kalamata Olive Pesto Tofu from Betty Goes Vegan. Annie Shannon gave Cassi permission to reprint the recipe on her blog. Check it out!

Anyway, this was awesome. I love manicotti! This was stuffed with a yummy olive-y tofu. 

And she also made a Salad with Mushrooms and Onions. We had choices of Italian dressing or regionally made (in Arkansas) blueberry balsamic vinaigrette. I went with the blueberry stuff. So good!

And then it was dessert time. Cassi made her Diva Delight Cookies (recipe here) that she made for Christmas Cookie Club. But she made these into whoopie pies by stuffing with a homemade citrus buttercream. Yum!!

I won't be posting tomorrow night since I'll be doing holiday stuff with my family and Sheridan. But I'll try and post a holiday recap on Xmas night or Thursday at the latest.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Solstice Celebrations

While I celebrate Xmas in a totally secular "hang out with the family and open presents" kinda way, I celebrate Yule or Winter Solstice with slightly more spiritual reverence. Solstice is also when Paul and I exchange gifts and when we do gifts with our family of eight fur-babies.

Since I had plans to spent Yule (December 21st, Saturday night) with some other earthy ladies, Paul and I did our gift exchange on Solstice Eve night (Friday, December 20th). First, we gave the dogs some presents to unwrap. Datsun actually unwraps his own presents, and he even ripped the plastic off his Nylabone package without any help. He's kind of a genius.

Maynard, on the other hand, is sort of a dipshit. An adorable little dipshit, but a dipshit nonetheless. We have to help him open his gifts. As you may recall, Maynard had major surgery TWICE in a week's time before Thanksgiving for swallowing part of a Kong ball. I was nervous about giving him more toys, but I found these Tux toys by West Paw on indescructibledog.com. The reviews say the Tux is much stronger than a Kong. We'll see. I'm supervising play, and the first hole I see, the ball's going in the trash. (Oh, and check out the cute bowtie! I bought them both bowties for solstice).

The kitties got new catnip mice and jingle balls. I'm not sure where all their toys go, but they always seem to disappear (under the couch, maybe?). Gelfling was super excited about new toys.

We sprinkled catnip all over the floor and Pandora (that's her butt) and Ozzy had a time.

And Polaris really loved the new catnip scratcher at first. But two days later, all the cats have lost interest in this.

Akasha, not usually a shy kitty, opted to hide under the couch the entire time we were opening toys, hence the dark shadow over his face.

Seymour, the cat who lives above the kitchen cabinets (it's what he wants!), waited for us to throw a toy his way.

As for us humans, Paul gave me a $100 gift certificate to get some tattoo touch-up work done at the newly opened Ronin Design and Manufacturing studio. I have a couple of tattoos that have faded and need to be refreshed, including my "animal rights, human rights" tat.

I gave Paul a make-your-own beer kit.

And some dehydrated Trinidad Scorpian peppers. They are supposedly one of the hottest peppers in the world, and he loves hot, hot, hot stuff.

The next night on the actual solstice, I went to my friend Cindy's house in Bartlett for a little Yule party. She made the most delicious Mulled Cider.

And we had a little feast! I brought Falafel, Pita, Hummus, and Salad, And there were nut mixes and a fruit tray (plus some meaty stuff for the carnivores).

After dinner, we burned a Yule log in Cindy's fireplace. Before we tossed it into the fire, we attached all sorts of symbols that represented things we wanted gone from our lives in 2014. I threw in a doctor bill from one of my stress fracture appointments because, next year, I want my foot to be completely healed so I can run again!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holistic Holiday at Sea + Bryant Terry

I've only been on one cruise in my life. My parents and I took a Carnival cruise ship to Mexico a few years back (blogged all about that cruise here). And while Carnival was surprisingly pretty darn vegan-friendly, I'm sure I would just die of happiness if I could go on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise in March. It's an ALL-VEGAN cruise with cooking demos by vegan celebrity chefs and lectures by the health guru greats.

This year's cruise features Bryant Terry (the original crunk vegan!), T. Colin Campbell, Neal Bernard, Robert Cheeke, Chef AJ, Rich Roll, and so many more. From March 1st-8th, cruisers can listen to health talks, do yoga, and most importantly stuff themselves with delicious, healthy vegan food. And there are stops in San Maarten, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. This is my dream vacation, y'all!

Anyway, I doubt I'll have the funds to take a cruise next year. But a girl can dream, right? If you, dear reader, do end up booking this cruise, be sure and mention my name and you'll get a $50 on board credit to spend in the plant-based bookstore (how cool does that sound?!) or on a personal service or consultation. Click here to see rates and get booked.

Out of all the presenters, I'd definitely be the most excited to see Bryant Terry.

Photo credit: Paige Greene

He's a fellow Memphian (though he doesn't live here anymore), and he's been cooking up soul dishes for years. On the cruise, he'll be cooking up some dishes from his new book, Afro-Vegan: Farm Fresh, African, Caribbean, & Southern Flavors Remixed.

I have an advance copy of his book (it hits shelves April 8th), and I'll do a full review soon. But lemme tell ya: Like all of Bryant's books, this one is jam-packed with awesome — Lemongrass Boiled Peanuts, Pumpkin-Peanut Fritters, Curried Corn and Coconut Rice, Fresh Corn Grits with Swiss Chard and Cherry Tomatoes. Yum!

Anyway, Bryant took a few minutes to dish about his new book and what he'll be doing on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.

Me: You have a new book, Afro-Vegan, coming out soon. Tell me a little about it.

Bryant: I’m really excited about Afro-Vegan. I feel like all my previous books were preparing me to write this one. I have a new publisher (Ten Speed Press), and this will be my first full-color, hardback book with lots of photos. A large part of my mission in writing Afro-Vegan is to put the ingredients, flavor profiles, and classic dishes of the African Diaspora into wider circulation. I know that folks are yearning for a vegan cookbook that is different than anything else out there, and this is it. Of course there is the political aspect of this book, similar to my others. Cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz said, “If A People’s History of the United States and Joy of Cooking had a baby, Afro-Vegan would be it!” That’s about right. Most important, though, the food is yummy.

And that's your fourth book, right?

Yep. My third book of which I am the lone author. My first book was co-authored with my friend Anna Lappe.

How has your Southern upbringing affected your style of cooking?

My family owned farms in rural Mississippi and kept gardens in Memphis where I’m from, so I always had the tastiest local food that was grown, raised, and cooked by people I love. That’s what my cooking is all about, feeding my diverse group of family, friends, and fans vibrant and yummy plant-centered food that reflects my values around health, sustainability, compassion, and community building.

You seem to have a focus on using simple, fresh ingredients to create gourmet dishes, but soul food doesn't always often tend to be very gourmet. What inspired you to take soul food and step it up a notch?

I don’t know if my cooking is gourmet; compared to many of my chef friends, I think that I cook like someone’s grandmother. But my grandmother used garden-fresh ingredients to make simple dishes, and they were always delicious and satisfying. That is what I strive to do with my recipes. When people talk about “soul food,” they are most often describing the comfort foods of African-American cuisine. My mission is to move people beyond soul food and help them discover the diversity and complexity of my ancestors’ food.

How did you get involved with Holistic Holiday at Sea? Is this your first time presenting on that cruise?

This is my second time teaching classes on the cruise. The first time I presented was in 2010. The organizers knew about my work and wanted me to bring my voice to the program. I had a ball. The food is AMAZING, the people are great, and it is a very rejuvenating working vacation for me.

Any idea what you'll be making yet?

Tofu Curry with Mustard Greens; Sweet Potato and Lima Bean Tagine; Slow-Braised Greens; and Cinnamon-Soaked Wheat Berry Salad - all recipes from Afro-Vegan.

What are you most looking forward to with the cruise?
Spending time on the ocean with my wife, exercising everyday, and eating.

Any other presenters that you're dying to see?

I am excited to take a Qi Gong class with Marcus Gary!

What do you hope cruise-goers take away from your presentation?

I really hope that my presentations further extends farm-fresh, compassionate food to include foods of the African diaspora.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Early 1900s Dining

So I know it may not seem like it, but I promise that I'm still slowly working on my next cookbook project. I've been a little uninspired as of late, and I'm a bit side-tracked with cleaning out my pantry and preparing for my January cleanse. But I am definitely still working on my vintage vegan cookbook, where I veganize popular foods of the 1900s.

Last night, I made a French Dip Sub for the book project.

French dip subs were supposedly invented in 1918 by Philippe Mathieu, owner of the "Philippe the Original" sandwich shop in Los Angeles. The sandwich isn't French, but its developer was! According to legend, Philippe was making a sandwich for a policeman and accidentally dropped a French roll into the drippings in a roasting pan. But the policeman loved his sandwich and came back for another the next day.

My vegan version has homemade seitan beef, mushrooms, and vegan mayo. And you dip each bite into a savory vegan beef broth. French dip subs were always my favorite before I gave up meat in '94. And this really took me back.

On the side, I made a dish for my 1900s chapter — New Potatoes in Parsley Butter.

Now this isn't a specific historical dish, but it is similar to something a home cook would have made in those days. Just a simple veggie dish. With (vegan) butter. And the potatoes are boiled of course! Everyone boiled veggies back then.

Speaking of cookbooks, I'll be signing Cookin' Crunk Thursday night at Wish/Langford in Cooper-Young (2157 Central) at 6 p.m. If you're in town, come by and get a few copies as holiday gifts!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Match Meat Stuffed Chicken

Quick post tonight. I'm exhausted. Been up since 4:30 a.m. so I could make it to my first early morning Bikram (hot) yoga class this morning. It was lovely getting such a challenging workout in before dawn, but now I'm literally passing out at my computer.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I'm working on cleaning out my pantry and freezer before the new year. Still hanging out in freezer were an unopened bag of Match Vegan Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken patties. Match sent me a ton of review products earlier this year, and I'm still working my way through them.

I fried one up for lunch today and topped it with ajvar (a Serbian red bell pepper and garlic relish that I picked up at the local Mediterranean market a few months ago) and some leftover homemade cashew cream from last week's matzoh brei.

Looks totally fancy, huh? I wish I had a better picture of the inside, but I opted to cut it open after adding the topping. So it's a little hard to see the stuffing of spinach and sundried tomatoes. Loved this chicken! Like all the Match meats I've tried, it had a VERY realistic taste and texture. I'm convinced that Match makes the best faux meat on the market. And the Mediterranean stuffing really made this dish shine.

I served it with a helpin' of Mac & Teese with Broccoli.

When I was at Vida Vegan Con back in May (yes, that long ago!), I went home with four packages of Teese cheese. And I still had the Teese cheese sauce in my fridge! I'm telling y'all — my food hoarding problem is out of control. Anyway, the sauce expired in November, but I figured it was fine. And it was! It made the perfect creamy sauce to mix with half a box of leftover whole wheat elbow macaroni that was in my pantry and some broccoli that had been languishing my crisper for almost too long.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Christmas Cookie Club

Last year, my friend Cassi got the bright idea to start a Christmas Cookie Club from some chick-lit book she read. A bunch of ladies get together and swap cookies and tell stories from their year. It's sappy, girly stuff. And while I'm not much of a lady, I do like wine and cookies. When I got the invite last year (she only invites 12 people), I felt kinda special.

But then I read the fine print. Here's this year's invite.

Not sure if you can make out the tiny words, but this says each lady must make 13 DOZEN cookies! That's 156 cookies! That's a dozen for each girl at the party and one dozen for a charity of Cassi's choice. Fortunately, one girl dropped out at the last minute this year, so we only had to make 12 dozen. (Here's Cassi's recap on her blog, The Pretty In Pink Vegan).

Trust me. I did my share of whining and cursing Cassi while I was baking on Saturday. But I made it through. Three hours of baking later, I had 12 dozen Chewy Spiced Molasses Cookies from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur (see yesterday's post).

At the party, we went around the room and talked about our cookie and how it related to our past year. Since I made a molasses cookie, and molasses is known for its famously slow drizzle, I talked about my very slow-healing (4-6 months, still working on it) stress fracture that's prevented me from running since August, essentially putting my life on hold. Ugh.

Here's Cassi reading Jennifer's 2013 story, which she asked Cassi to read for her.

Not everyone made vegan cookies, but many people did. Even some of the non-vegans tried their hand at vegan baking! Here's a round-up of the vegan cookies at the party — Jennifer's Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie, Karen's Oreo Truffle, my Chewy Spiced Molasses Cookie, Nicole's Chocolate Truffles, Stephanie's Kitchen Sink Cookies, and Cassi's Diva Delights.

Oh, and Cassi made Vegan Gingerbread Men from Betty Goes Vegan. But she was sad from doing so much baking, so she made them sad little men.

We also had some savory snacks (and plenty of wine!).

I made a Vegan Crab Dip using this Paula Deen recipe (but subbing out Match vegan crab, Trader Joe's vegan mozzarella cheese, vegan parm, and Vegenaise).

I went home with 12 dozen cookies, one package from each lady. I can't eat that many cookies! But thankfully, I have lots of hungry co-workers who were more than willing to help me today.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sugar, Sugar!

This past Saturday, my friend Cassi held her annual Christmas Cookie Club party, where 12 girls swapped cookies packaged up by the dozen. But I'll tell you more about that in tomorrow's post. Tonight, I'm going to show y'all what cookie I made and review the sugar that I used to make it.

I went with the Chewy Spiced Molasses Cookie from Kelly Paloza's The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur. 

This is a soft and chewy cookie with lots of molasses and hints of nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves. It's almost gingerbready, which is perfect for this time of year.

The cookie dough is only sweetened with molasses and brown sugar. But after you ball up the dough into cookie shapes, you roll them in cane sugar before placing the cookies on the baking sheet. A few weeks back, Zulka brand sent me a bag of their Morena Pure Cane Sugar to review. So I used that sugar to coat my cookies.

Taste-wise, Zulka is pretty spot-on with any other cane sugar or evaporated cane juice. I typically buy my cane sugar (unrefined, unbleached) in the bulk bins at Whole Foods, and in a blind taste test, I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Zulka and the bulk bin sugar.

But here's why it's awesome — Zulka has a commitment to sustainability. No fossil fuels are used to power their sugar mills. Instead, they produce their own electricity using leftover fibers from cane processing. They recirculate the water in their irrigation systems. And their sugar cane comes from small family-owned farms.

Plus, I noticed that the sugar crystals look more glittery than the bulk bin sugar I typically buy, which was great for these cookies since the sugar is more of a decoration.

Alright, I promise to show you everyone's cookies tomorrow night!