Monday, June 26, 2017

Lucky Number 13!

Paul and I celebrated our 13th anniversary this weekend! The actual date — June 28 — is Wednesday, but Paul is living part-time in Nashville for work so he'll be out of town on the real date.

We started our anniversary celebration at the BubblePOPP As If 90s party at Minglewood Hall on Saturday night. These pop-up parties have decade themes (the last BubblePOPP theme was the 80s) and feature a DJ spinning songs of the era and projections of iconic films. EVERYONE dresses up, which is awesome. Paul and I were both teens in the 90s so that is our era! I wore a crushed velvet dress and borrowed some platform boots from my friend Shara. Also lots of body glitter, butterfly clips, and a choker! Paul wore JNCOs, a chain wallet, and (not pictured) a pager (!!!) that he borrowed from Shara (she never threw anything away!). We danced all night to Nirvana, Montell Jordan, TLC, No Doubt, and so many awesome 90s songs.

On Sunday morning, we slept in, and then I made Pancakes and Vegan Sausage for brunch! I added fresh, local berries from Curb Market to mine, but Paul likes his pancakes plain. I had Hilary's Eat Well Apple Maple Sausage, and Paul went with Gimme Lean.

We smothered our pancakes in Miyoko's VeganButter and maple syrup. Served with mimosas, of course.

After brunch, we headed out to the new IKEA because Paul hadn't been yet. We spent a good hour in the store, pretending we were shopping to remodel our house. Of course we're not actually remodeling, but it's fun to pretend. We sat on all the couches and laid on all then beds.

Next, we rented the new Batman Lego movie and had some snacks at home. And then it was time for dinner! We both LOVE ramen noodles more than just about anything, so we went to the Lucky Cat Ramen pop-up.

Lucky Cat started as a pop-up in bars and breweries, and they've since graduated to a semi-permanent location at Peabody and Cooper (next door to Cafe 1912). In the fall, they'll be opening a permanent place in Crosstown Concourse (where I work, yay!). They always offer a veg option, and last night, that was Yuzu Veggie Ramen with charred corn, enoki mushrooms, and shishito peppers. So good! I cleaned my bowl.

Lucky Cat doesn't have a beer or alcohol license, but you can BYOB without a corkage fee. We brought a bottle of Chalkboard pinot grigio. This is such a smooth, easy-drinking wine, and it paired well with ramen.

Paul and I met over a game of pool at Newby's beer bust night 13 years ago. Newby's is a college bar, and we rarely go there these days (we weren't in college then either, but we were much younger — in our early 20s). But we have a tradition of ending every anniversary night with a drink at Newby's, so we're there at least once a year.

We had a couple of shots and some local beers, and then we played a game of pool before heading home for the night.

Love this guy! I'm so glad we've been together for 13 years, and I look forward to many, many more.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Solstice with The New Vegan

Yesterday was the first day of summer, my very favorite season. I love 90-degree days and sticky, Southern humidity. I love tank tops, short shorts, and flip-flops. I love juicy, red tomatoes and sweet, sweet watermelon (with lots of salt, of course). This is my time.

I celebrated the Solstice with a fresh, light meal made with seasonal produce acquired from the new Curb Market — a local produce market just a couple blocks from my house. The recipes came from The New Vegan, the latest book by Pea Soup blogger/actress Aine Carlin.

Much like Aine's first book, Keep It Vegan, this new cookbook is stunning. Nearly every recipe is accompanied by a full-color photograph of a rustically styled dish that looks almost too gorgeous to eat. The book is printed on heavy, matte paper that makes it feel even more special. Aine relies on fresh, seasonal produce to create her dishes, which tend to be veggie-heavy. You won't find any faux meats called for in this book, and there really aren't even many dishes with tofu (just a handful). She really focuses on the magic of vegetables for the main courses.

For Solstice, I chose to make her Scandinavian-Style Open Sandwiches, using the recipe for Tomato, Easy Cashew Cheese, & Red Onion. 

The open sandwiches recipe provides several topping options. There's a beet/minted pea and a pickled cucumber/cannellini bean as well, but this tomato one just screamed summer since tomatoes are FINALLY in season down here. The cashew cheese base is super simple — just a basic cashew cheese spread made in the blender and then mixed with chopped, fresh chives (from my garden). It's topped with fresh tomato slices, thinly sliced red onion, and capers and served on toasted rye.

On the side, I made Crunchy Broccoli & Carrot Salad with Ginger Garlic Dressing.

I used fresh, local broccoli and carrots for this. The recipe didn't call for steaming the broccoli, but I don't like raw broccoli, so I lightly steamed it first. That's mixed with grated carrot, toasted almonds, cilantro, and an easy ginger-garlic vinaigrette. I cut the oil way back in the vinaigrette from 2 tablespoons to a 1/2 tablespoon, just because I prefer less oil. I loved the crunchy veggies marinated in this super-garlicky, spicy ginger dressing. The toasted almonds really brought it all together.

Aine's book is divided into chapters on breakfasts, snacks/lunches, easy meals, special meals, and desserts. From the breakfast chapter, I'll definitely be trying the Stovetop Beans with a Twist soon. These are baked beans served on toast, European-style (Aine is from Cornwall). The "twist" refers to the fact that these beans are cooked with Asian flavors, like chile, garlic, and ginger.

I've also got my eye on the Tofu Ricotta Toast and the Thai-Inspired Spiralized Salad (with zucchini and cucumber noodles) from the lunches chapter. The easy meals chapter focuses on weeknight meals with only a few steps, like Tortilla Soup, Green Spinach & Lentil Curry, and Crunchy Cauliflower Couscous, while the special meals are a bit more complicated but totally impressive — think Jerk Cauliflower Steaks and Ceviche-Style Mushrooms. As for desserts, I MUST make Aine's Banoffe Pie soon! It's a gluten-free, healthier version made with a pecan crust, date caramel filling, coconut cream, banana, and dark chocolate.

Happy Summer, y'all!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Munk Packs: Perfect Pre-Run Fuel

Back in 2015, I reviewed Munk Pack's oatmeal fruit squeezes (and provided an update on my old squirrel friend, Herman). At the time, Munk Pack made three flavors, but they've since come out with two more and they sent me those to review.

There's a new Peach Chia Vanilla flavor and a Maple Pear Quinoa flavor. These vegan, non-gmo squeeze packs are filled with a soft, squeezable paste made from gluten-free oats, real fruit, fruit juices, and other good stuff like quinoa and chia seeds.

Each pouch has 90 calories and 20 carbs, making it ideal pre-run fuel for a short morning run, like a 3- to 4-miler. I had both of these new flavors before morning runs this week, and they kept me fueled until I could make it home for a protein smoothie. You see, I wake up at 5 a.m. and only have about 20 minutes before I hit the road for my run, so I need quick, easily digestible carbs. And Munk Packs are PERFECT for that. Plus, they're a nice change from my usual dates or raw fruit/nut bars.

I wish I'd known how perfect these were pre-workout when I reviewed Munk Packs in 2015. Back then, I had them as afternoon snacks, and while they helped satisfy my hunger for awhile, they seem to me to be even better suited for pre-workout.

The peach chia has a strong peach flavor that tastes like summer (by the way, happy first day of summer, y'all -- Summer Solstice meal recap coming tomorrow!), but the maple pear was my fave. I love anything maple flavored, and this reminded me of pancakes topped with sliced pear.

The oatmeal in these packs makes for a lightly chewy texture, but for the most part, the paste is smooth and creamy, like baby food for adults. I haven't seen these sold in stores in Memphis, but you better believe I'd be stocking up if they were. Munk Pack also makes vegan protein cookies, and I'd love to try those one day!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Little Kernel

Mini popcorn is all the rage these days! If you're not familiar, it's exactly what it sounds like — tiny kernels of popcorn. They're about half the size of regular kernels, and that means they're extra tender with a smaller hull. Not only are the mini kernels a bit easier to eat, you're also less likely to get those big hulls stuck in your teeth.

The Little Kernel sent me a bag of their Pink Himalayan Salt mini popcorn to review!

Now I'm a bit of a popcorn freak, y'all. Popcorn is the one food that I have no self-control around. If you give me a bag of popcorn, I won't stop eating until every last kernel is gone. But this stuff is so good, so I've been rationing it out by taking small Tupperware bowls full of it to work with me each day.

Love this stuff! The teensy kernels are super soft, so they're easy on my delicate teeth. I just had an awful root canal, and I still haven't gotten the crown put on, so I have to be careful with my temp filling.

The pink salt flavor is light, not overpowering. Just lightly salted so you don't feel all bloated and weird after you eat a bowl. I tend to over-salt my homemade popcorn, and while it tastes delicious, I always feel gross after I eat all that salt.

The Little Kernel makes several other flavors — a White Cheddar (with non-dairy cheddar flavor!!!), Naked (no salt), Butter (with non-dairy butter!!!), and Sweet & Salty (with brown sugar and sea salt). I love that they use non-dairy flavoring, so the vegans can enjoy everything too! Plus, it's non-gmo and totally gluten-free.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Vegan Tour of Curb Market

Back in September, I left my long-time position as a reporter/editor at the Memphis Flyer for a position in communications for Crosstown Arts, a nonprofit arts organization in my neighborhood that, for the past several years, has been leading an effort to transform the massive, former Sears Crosstown building into Crosstown Concourse, a "vertical urban village" of arts, healthcare, and education organizations, apartments, restaurants, and retail.

The former Sears building, which once served as the regional HQ for the retailer, was a 1.5 million-square-foot blighted, vacant structure. Construction on the revitalization of this 1920s art-deco style building has been underway for a couple years now, and finally, a few places are opening their doors. Last week, the Curb Market opened in the retail area on the bottom floor of this 10-story building, and I was blown away by how vegan-friendly it is!

Curb Market originally opened in Cooper-Young a few years back, but that location closed and moved into Crosstown Concourse. The premise has always been focused on local produce and food products, but this new store is much bigger than the former location. And since it's the only grocery in the building, which, once completed, will host 3,000 people daily (employees, residents of apartments, visitors), Curb added some non-local, frozen foods and pantry staples to make things easier on people looking for a one-stop shop. 

Here's a little tour of some of the vegan goodies I've found! The prices at Curb are slightly higher than a regular grocery store since it's a small boutique grocery, but for anyone who works or lives in the building (or lives down the block, like me!), it will be worth the extra price for the convenience of not having to drive to the Kroger down the street. Plus, Curb has some vegan items that Kroger doesn't carry.

Before we get to the vegan convenience things I found, check out this gorgeous produce. They get as much local produce as they can. I'll never have to go downtown to the farmer's market again!

They also carry lots of locally made foods, like my very favorite thing, Dave's Bagels (all of which are vegan except chocolate chip). You can also get fresh, toasted Dave's Bagels at breakfast at the Curb deli.

They carry Sweet Magnolia Gelato from Clarksdale, Mississippi, and they have a few flavors of sorbet, which are vegan. I bought this Watermelon Cucumber Tomato Sorbet last week. So good! Nice, refreshing watermelon flavor with just a hint of juicy, summer tomato and cooling cucumber.

They carry locally made Grecian Gourmet Pita Chips and hummus. Pictured here are just the chips (with Sabra hummus cause that's what I already had at home). I bought the chips yesterday, and they ARE SO GOOD. They're seasoned with an awesome spice blend that tastes like Cavender's Greek Seasoning (maybe it is?). Best pita chips I've ever had. Will be buying these often.

Not pictured, other local items: Nikki's Hot Ass Bloody Mary Mix (it's vegan!) and Nikki's Hot and Cool Chips, Lydia's Healthy Edibles vegan baked goods, and Replenish Kombucha. And probably way more stuff that I missed.

As for non-local goods, I found Coconut Bliss ice cream, Hilary's vegan sausages (this is something I've not seen anywhere else!), Gardein breakfast pockets, Tofurky hot pockets, Victoria Vegan pasta sauces, Daiya & Hilary's dressings, and Amy's cheeseless pizza. And those are just a few items! There are many more.

I was also impressed with their large nut butter selection! This is a lot of nut butter for a small store. I don't know if I've told y'all, but I'm a bit of a nut butter hoader. I typically have about 10 jars open. I think I'm at 16 jars right now. (Yes, I know I have a problem).

Curb also has a salad bar.

And a hot bar with weekly lunch specials! And the hot bar always has vegan items!

Last week, I got this platter with Lentil Dal, Roasted Potatoes, & Quinoa Asparagus. Everything was so well-seasoned and fresh! I enjoyed this on my lunch break on the patio at Concourse.

And then today, I totally didn't intend to eat at Curb again. But this morning, they posted the lunch menu and it included Vegan Stuffed Peppers! So I had to try them! I got one to go and brought it home to eat with my hummus and pita for lunch. This was stuffed with a rice-lentil blend and topped with a yummy tomato-pepper sauce.

I'm so thrilled to have Curb Market in the neighborhood! I think I've been almost every day since they opened last Wednesday! They'll be seeing a LOT of me there.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day, Papa Crunk!

I have the best dad on the planet. He's a badass biker with a heart of gold. He's a cancer survivor. He's the most generous, kindest soul I know. But if you just saw him out — on his Harley with his do-rag and tough-guy sunglasses — you'd never know what a sweet guy he is. But I'll let you in on a little secret — he's actually a super-nice guy.

Take for example my dad's choice for Father's Day lunch. I asked what he wanted to eat, and he said, "You posted something not too long about about a veggie burger with onion rings on it." My non-vegan, meat-eating biker dad asked to have veggie burgers for Father's Day! You see, he's come a LONG way in that regard. When I was a kid, my dad used to hunt deer and fish, but after I went vegetarian at age 14 in in 1994, he stopped hunting. And eventually, he even stopped fishing. Though he still eats meat, he can't bear the thought of killing an animal anymore.

And then my mom started buying veggie burgers for them to eat at home. And Earth Balance to cook with. And now, he actually prefers veggie burgers and vegan butter! So today, he asked for Vegan Steakhouse Burgers from Imagine Vegan Cafe. So that's what we had.

These are hearty, meaty veggie patties topped with veggie bacon, onion rings, & BBQ sauce. Served with a side of your choice. I opted for garlic kale. My parents chose fries.

My dad loved the burger, and my parents plan to start making this burger at home since Imagine is a good hour away from their home in Arkansas. After lunch, we did some shopping, and then we went back to my house for dessert — Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread from the Mother's Day/Father's Day chapter in The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook.

My dad isn't crazy about raisins, so I made half with raisins and half without. We had slices of this with Miyoko's Creamery Vegan Butter. So good.

Happy Father's Day, Papa Crunk!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mother Gaia Goddess Box!

It's that time again — Goddess Provisions box unpacking time! I subscribe to these monthly boxes of crystals, oils, vegan snacks, and beauty products, and I like to share the contents of each box on the blog. Here's my June box! The theme this month was Mother Gaia (which is funny because Memphis has a new vegetarian restaurant called Mama Gaia).

The box's contents are all items that come from the Earth. There's a third chakra oil, an ayurvedic soap, a recycled glass bracelet, lip conditioning oil, digestive bitters, a raw snack bar, and an obsidian heart.

I LOVE the obsidian heart. Obsidian is a stone that's been missing from my collection, and I keep meaning to pick one up from the crystal shop. Now I don't have to! It's used to transmute negativity and enhance psychic protection.

The 4Ocean Bracelet is made with recycled glass, and for each bracelet Goddess Provisions purchased for these boxes, 4Ocean pledged to remove a pound of trash from the ocean! That's a pretty sweet deal. Plus, it looks really cool.

I needed more soap, and this Auromere Ayurvedic Vanilla-Neem Bar came just in time. It's made with vanilla, wildcrafted neem, and 15 Ayurvedic herbal oils and extracts. The vanilla-neem bar is supposed to be good for delicate and aging skin (that's me!), and it helps mitigate vata and pitta imbalances. It smells amazing!

The Tuore Naturals Lip Conditioning Oil also arrived just in time. My lips have been dry and cracked lately, but this blend of jojoba and sunflower oils with ylang ylang and sweet orange oils has certainly helped. And the Urban Moonshine Digestive Bitters are really neat! I didn't even know this sort of thing existed. It's a natural remedy for gas, heartburn, and upset stomach. I don't get heartburn, but I can be pretty gassy at times. Will be good to have this around. You just spray it in your mouth a few times before eating when you feel a gassy time or heartburn coming on.

The Golden Earth Chakra 3 Oil is designed to stimulate the third chakra, the solar plexus. It's made with neroli oil that's been infused with citrine. It's supposed to boost self trust and confidence.

I enjoyed this Shanti Vitality Bar before a weeknight yoga class earlier this week. This raw bar has 17 grams of vegan protein, plus dried mulberries, spicy chocolate, cacao, and maca. Very yummy, and it kept me full throughout class.

By the way, I'm a Goddess Provisions ambassador, which means I make a couple bucks if anyone signs up using this link. I don't get my boxes free though, just to be clear. I subscribe and pay the $35 a month, and it's totally worth it. It's a great deal, and the boxes are so much fun!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Blossom Cookbook

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks back (in my review of the NYC Vegan cookbook), I've never been to New York City. It's on the bucket list for sure. Just hasn't happened yet. And of course that means I've never eaten at the legendary Blossom Restaurants. 

Blossom opened in Chelsea in 2006 and then spread to Manhattan. The restaurants are among those eateries that every vegan has heard of and plans to dine at someday (if they haven't already). The menu features organic and innovative vegan fare that's both upscale and yet somehow approachable and lacking pretension. 

The owners Ronen Seri and Pamela Elizabeth have a new cookbook, aptly named The Blossom Cookbook, that reflects that same vibe. They've taken some of Blossom's classic recipes and presented them in a way that any cook, no matter the skill level, would find approachable. Yet they're still fancy and would impress vegan and omni diners alike.

Even way down here in Memphis, I've heard all about Blossom's famous Seitan Piccata. It's the stuff of legend, and when I saw a recipe in the book, I knew I HAD to make that. 

This is a deceptively easy recipe that involves breading and pan-frying seitan (I used Sweet Earth) and creating a quick, tangy sauce with white wine, capers, and lemon. It's served over mashed potatoes (a classic, no-frills recipe) and sauteed garlic kale. This was such a hearty meal, and the lemony seitan paired perfectly with the garlicky greens and starchy potatoes. I can see why the dish is so famous! In the recipe intro, they say actor Ted Danson used to come in for this dish all the time!

I also tried their Quinoa Salad. I made this simple recipe for a potluck picnic with some friends in Elmwood Cemetery a few weeks back.

This is another of those recipes that looks way fancier than it is. It's simply quinoa with black beans, red bell pepper, radish, corn, and a lemon-tahini sauce. That's topped with pepitas and guacamole. The guac really makes this salad, and I doubt I'll be able to eat quinoa salad without guac ever again.

The book contains 80 recipes — some very simple, like tofu scramble or vegan grilled cheese, and others very fancy, like pine nut-crusted eggplant or porcini phyllo cigars. But even the fanciest recipes have an average of about 10-12 ingredients. The sophistication is in the simplicity with these recipes, and that's a great thing for a home cook.

I love that there's an entire chapter devoted to sauces. Think pistachio sauce, vegan bleu cheese sauce, cashew cream, and hollandaise. And the dessert chapter is especially impressive (raw key lime pie! phyllo apple sticks in brandy sauce! gluten-free lemon poppyseed cake!).

While it may be years until I make it to the real Blossom restaurants, at least I've got this book now to tide me over.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Camping Food at Bonnaroo

Hi again! Yesterday, I posted about all of the amazing vegan food I enjoyed at Bonnaroo this past weekend. Pizza, burritos, samosa, and ALL THE FRIES. Bonnaroo — a 4-day music & arts fest in Manchester, Tennessee — is super vegan-friendly. But it IS a festival, and that means "festival prices." One order of fries ran me $10 (granted, they were covered in peanut sauce and onions), and my burrito was $12.

That means I have to eat a few meals at the campsite to save money. Paul and I always camp in guest camping, which is a VIP area for press, artists, and vendors. It's in a lovely wooded area with easy access to town, so we usually make a daily drive out to Walmart. There aren't many shopping options in rural Manchester, and the Walmart becomes a haven for fest-goers looking to restock beer and ice, cool off in the A/C, and use flushable toilets. It's amazing how fancy a Walmart bathroom feels when you've been using porta-potties for days.

Anyway, my point is, snacks and cheaper food are easy to find outside the fest. I typically bring a lot of instant meals with me, but I usually buy a few more treats at Walmart. I brought one of those Go Picnic Meals to enjoy in the car on the long drive to Manchester. This had a small container of black bean dip with plantain chips, a package of edamame/sunflower seed/pepita trail mix, a package of banana chip/crystalized ginger/candied peanuts mix, and an apricot fruit strip. Great car snacks!

On Friday morning, I had my first breakfast at camp. I have a portable gas camping stove that I always pack, and it's great for boiling water for oat cups and soup cups. On that morning, I had a Summer Berries Oat Cup with Berry Almond Butter and a Black Cold Brew Coffee.

On a trip to Walmart on Thursday, I picked up some Black Bean & Jalapeno Hummus with Baby Carrots to keep in our cooler. I had some of this for lunch.

And I also had a Namaste Vegan Broccoli & Cheese Soup cup. This was noochy and amazing! It came in a Vegan Cuts Fitness Box that I'll be blogging about soon.

On Saturday morning, I had more oats! This time, it was Bob's Red Mill Blueberry & Flax Oats with Wowbutter. Both of those were also in that Fitness Box. Another Black Cold Brew Coffee too. This meal powered me through a 10 a.m. outdoor yoga class on the festival grounds.

Lunch on Saturday was more hummus/carrots with a Dr. McDougall's Vegan Chicken Ramen soup cup. YUM!

On Sunday, I woke up craving something savory. I had more oat cups in my bag, but instead, I opted for a Dr. McDougall's Vegan Tortilla Soup. This had baked chips already in it, but I crumbled a few more Que Pasa Jalapeno Lime Chips on top. Because chips!

That's it for my camping meals. The rest of my meals were overpriced festy meals, but they were oh-so-worth it!