Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Frugal Vegan Cookbook

When I went vegan back in 2004, my biggest concern wasn't how I'd live without cheese or how I'd manage without my favorite fried egg sandwiches. It was how much more I'd spend on groceries. At the time, I was an intern at the Memphis Flyer, and though it was a paid internship, it didn't pay much. But I ordered a zine called The Cheap Vegan, and it was filled with tips on how to save money on a vegan diet. I credit that zine with helping me make the final leap to committing to veganism for life.

Fast forward to 2017. I earn enough money now to live comfortably. But I STILL have a problem with overspending on groceries. I buy way too many convenience foods and things I don't really need. And I buy more and more food when I already have an overstocked pantry. Some people have a problem with over-spending on clothes or shoes. I have a grocery problem, and I could use some money-saving tips. And that's just what you'll find in Frugal Vegan, a new cookbook by Katie Koteen and Kate Kasbee.

This gorgeous, full-color book features a few practical, common-sense food budget tips in its intro. Things we all know but don't always practice — buy in bulk, buy produce in-season, batch-cook and freeze, etc. I could always use reminders like that. It's also filled with simple, delicious recipes that require very few ingredients, most of which vegans already have in our pantries.

I picked a couple recipes to cook from this book, and I'll tell ya — other than fresh produce, I didn't have to buy any special ingredients for these. I already had the rest of the ingredients because they're staples, like vegan mayo, breadcrumbs, vegan butter, etc. For this Crispy Buffalo Tofu Bowl, I only had to buy potatoes, tofu, and mushrooms because I already had everything else!

This was AMAZING by the way. The tofu is dipped in a mayo-based buffalo sauce, breaded, and fried in a skillet. The mashed potatoes are smothered in creamy mushroom gravy, and it's served with corn (I buy the $1 bags of frozen corn at Kroger). I did add some steamed kale on the side, even though the recipe didn't call for it; I'm always trying to squeeze in my greens. My omni partner Paul loved this, and he was super-excited to eat it again as leftovers tonight.

I also made the Vegan Taco Salad. This is a simple salad with taco "meat" made from lentils. Using lentils instead of vegan burger crumbles means this recipe is much less expensive to make! It also has black beans, corn, tomatoes, and avocado, and the dressing is a simple squeeze of lime with a touch of olive oil.

Both of these recipes were cheap to make! And delicious! The book is loaded with other inexpensive dishes I'd like to cook. There's a whole chapter on vegan bowls, like the Backyard BBQ Bowl (with brown rice, tofu, chickpeas, corn, and kale). There's a recipe for Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce that looks to die for, and Paul has already requested that I make the Mushroom Stroganoff for dinner soon. As for desserts, the Frozen Chocolate Banana Swirl (banana soft serve) recipe features so many fun topping ideas (berries, hemp seeds, Oreos!), and the Warm Apple Crisp looks affordable and impressive.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Weekend Eats

It's been a fun, long, food-filled weekend! On Saturday, Crosstown Concourse — the one-million-square-foot building where I will soon be working — had its opening day celebration. Some of the revamped, former Sears headquarters is still under construction, including our space at Crosstown Arts. But we had an opening celebration since most of the two-year construction project was done. The party lasted from 3 to 10 p.m., and I was working for much of the day — doing social media for Crosstown Concourse and Crosstown Arts.

They rolled down this amazing banner right after the formal ceremony with remarks from the mayors and project leaders.

But I arrived about an hour ahead of party time to make sure I would have time to eat. We had several food trucks parked outside in the lot, and most had vegan options.

When I spotted my new fave Kebab Food Truck, I knew what I needed — Falafel Sandwich with Tahini and a side of Basmati Rice (under the sandwich). By the way, they do serve fries here as a side, but they're cooked in duck fat, so avoid those! Several people who work on the truck are vegan, and vegan items are clearly marked, but for some reason, the fries aren't.

After the formal remarks, I floated around and snapped some pics of the various tenant open houses for the Concourse Instagram page. There are many vegan-friendly restaurants in Concourse, but I couldn't make it to all them in the hour I had for checking out open houses. I did spot my friends at Crosstown Brewing Co. handing out beer samples! Crosstown Brewing isn't open yet, but their space will be completed this fall.

After checking out open houses, I headed over to our space at Crosstown Arts to chat with visitors and take more pics for the Crosstown Arts Instagram. We had a balloon drop at 6 pm!

And here's a mural by Birdcap and Sentrock in our space! Our full operation won't be up and running in the Concourse building until fall, but the main lobby area was open and filled with art.

It was HOT outside on Saturday, but some of the party was on the plaza outside. Thankfully, MemPops was there with their boozy homemade ice pops. I had a Moscow Mule Pop.

After the open house portion, we watched my coworker Justin's tear-jerking documentary on the Concourse project, and then we headed back out to the plaza for a free concert with Winchester and the Ammunition, Susan Marshall, and 8Ball & MJG. We were super-excited to see 8Ball & MJG — old-school, crunk Memphis rappers from the 90s.

By that point, it was late and I was hungry again! Most food trucks were sold out, but Eddy's Pepper had only vegetarian options left. YAY! I got the Black Bean & Rice Nachos!

We went home right after the concert because we were signed up for the Bardog 5K on Sunday morning! I wasn't super worried about it because it's just a 5K, right? But man, did I underestimate that race! It was SO HOT, like heat index of 102. That was the hardest 5K I've ever run! But we made it! Paul hadn't trained much at all, so I was super proud that he got out of bed to run in the heat with me.

The race — a fundraiser for St. Jude — includes free beer and food.  I had a couple of PB&J Sliders and a couple pints of IPA. Made all that running in the heat so worth it!

I mentioned that it's been a long weekend. Well, that's because I took a vacation day from work today to experience the Solar Eclipse. We had 93% visibility in Memphis, and I wanted the full experience. Paul and I went to the I Survived the Solar Eclipse Party at Ghost River Brewing Co.

The eclipse was a little underwhelming. I expected complete darkness, but it only got a little dusky. And the peak of the eclipse was tucked behind a cloud. But at least the Memphis Mojo food truck was there with Vegetable Stir-Fry.

And for dessert, we had more MemPops! I went with a Mint Lemonade this time. Paul had Cherry Lime.

Such a fun, tasty weekend! I go back to work (and back to my routine) tomorrow!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

More Stuff I Ate

And here are some more random meals from the past couple weeks!

I made a Breakfast Sandwich using JL Field's recipe for Tofu Bacon Wraps (smoky tofu wrapped in rice paper) from The Vegan Air Fryer Cookbook, Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg, and Daiya Cheddar.

Are you tired of seeing FitQuick waffles yet? Probably! But I eat these gluten-free, high-protein waffles at least once a week. I posted one yesterday, but here's another! This one is Dark Chocolate Raspberry Waffle with Coconut Butter & Strawberries.

I'm still doing my GBOMBS thing. Just making sure I get my greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and nuts/seeds daily. Many of those things fit into my morning protein smoothies. This one has kale, mixed berries, banana, almond milk, chia seed, and coconut-almond Vega Protein & Greens powder. Check out my new Choose 901 Grit & Grind glass ("grit and grind" is a Memphis thang, y'all).

And another breakfast — Dave's Whole Wheat Bagel with Miso and Avocado. Yum! Sadly, this avocado was a little unripe, so this wasn't as good as it should have been. But still good.

The Curb Market in Crosstown Concourse carries Tofurky Hot Pockets! Yay. It's the only place in town where I can find them! I had a Ham & Cheese Pocket with Potato Salad at my desk one day last week. Sorry, but working lunches just aren't that pretty.

When I was visiting Sheridan in Little Rock last weekend, I stopped by their Whole Foods and picked up some Vegan Buffalo Chicken Salad from the deli. The Memphis Whole Foods doesn't sell this, and it makes me sad because it's so good! Vegan chicken mixed with a spicy mayo sauce and herbs. Mmmmm. Had some on a Buffalo Chicken Salad Sandwich with Sauteed Veggies for lunch one day this week.

At last week's Food Truck Friday at Crosstown Concourse, I was introduced to a new food truck that may be my new fave! The Kebab Food Truck has vegan options clearly marked and the Falafel Sandwich with Spicy Garlic Sauce (and a side of Basmati Rice, hiding under the sandwich) is the best falafel I've had in a long time!

Finally, here's a sandwich I ordered at Imagine Vegan Cafe last night! Portabella Mushroom Sandwich with housemade vegan cheese, tomato, and lettuce, side of Steamed Broccoli.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Stuff I Ate

Hey y'all. Here are some random things I've been eating.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I live and work around the Crosstown Concourse building, which is slowly coming to life as construction wraps up and new restaurants and businesses open almost weekly. A couple weeks ago, Farm Burger (a small burger chain) opened in Concourse, and I had high hopes for vegan options there. Farm Burger offers a vegan tempeh burger at a few locations, including the one in Nashville. But sadly, I was disappointed when I learned that the Memphis location is offering their vegetarian burger instead. It's made with quinoa and contains eggs. BUMMER. They did say that if they get enough requests for a vegan option, they may add one. So Memphis vegans, unite! Go ask for it! Until then, they do have a vegan salad — the Superfood Salad (kale, cranberries, walnuts, beets, tahini dressing, and nooch). It's a great salad, and the fries are amazing. Plus, local beer. But I'd be much happier with a burger over a salad.

Fridays this summer at Concourse are Food Truck Fridays, and a couple Fridays ago, I got this awesome Chickpeas & Rice dish from the Paul's Cariflavor truck. It has curried chickpeas and pigeon peas with potatoes and rice. Oh man!! So good! They also serve this in vegan roti, and it's amazing too.

Here's a quick dinner of a Sprouts Vegan Chicken Patty Sandwich and a side Potato Salad. The sandwich has sauteed mushrooms and cashew cheese.

Those Sprouts patties are just okay. I probably won't buy them again for me (but Paul loves them so we may keep them around for him). I much prefer the vegan Boca chicken patties. The Sprouts ones are a little mushy, but they were okay. I had one here on a salad with some Just Caesar Dressing and Focaccia Bread with Cashew Cheese.

Post-run protein! I love these Orgain Protein Shakes when I want something less than a smoothie (like when I know I'll be going out to lunch or brunch within an hour or so post-run).

Still eating lots of FitQuick protein waffles! Here's an Orange Cream Bar Protein Waffle with Coconut Butter and Fresh Raspberries. 22 grams of protein! Plus healthy coconut fat!

I found a jar of pepper jelly in my pantry that I've had for an embarrassingly long time. But it was still sealed so it was fine! Enjoyed some on a Dave's Whole Wheat Bagel with Cashew Cheese before a Saturday long run.

More randomness coming at ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Juice Bar in Crosstown Concourse!

FINALLY — I can get fresh juice in my neighborhood without having to drive! I live and work in Crosstown Memphis, a neighborhood on the northern edge of Midtown, and for years, our little area has been neglected and filled with abandoned buildings. That's because the neighborhood anchor — the 1.5-million-square-foot Sears headquarters — closed in the late 90s, leading to the closure of other businesses around it.

But that's changing thanks to a massive revitalization project led by Crosstown Arts, the nonprofit I work for. A few years ago, Crosstown Arts got the ball rolling to renovate and rebrand the old Sears Crosstown building as Crosstown Concourse. It's a HUGE building, and a little arts organization couldn't fill it on its own, so dozens of local businesses and organizations (medical centers, education nonprofits and various nonprofits of all stripes, restaurants, and retail) stepped up to save the long-vacant 1920s art-deco building. It's been under construction for a few years now, and slowly but surely, businesses are opening to the public. Crosstown Arts is moving our galleries and arts programming into the Crosstown Concourse this fall. We're currently across the street.

Yesterday, one of my favorite additions to the building — Juice Bar — opened, and quite frankly, made my little world complete. One of my two gyms —the Church Health YMCA — is in Concourse too. So now I can get fresh juice as I leave the gym! Plus, they have lots of vegan grab-and-go items for lunch.

This is Juice Bar's second Memphis location (it's a small franchise), but the other one is in the Cooper-Young neighborhood about a 7-minute drive away. While that doesn't sound far, I prefer to walk or bike everywhere. Since I live and work in the neighborhood, I often go days without driving a car. This is much more convenient! In fact, I walked over to Concourse for lunch today and got these Pad Thai Noodles (sweet potato noodles, carrots, cucumbers, spinach, cilantro, garlic, sesame seeds, cashews, Thai peanut sauce) and Mean Greens Juice (jalapeno, celery, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley, lemon).

Last night, I was invited to a media preview party at Juice Bar. They don't sell alcohol, but they had some special spiked cocktails for us to try. There was Gin & Juice and Orange You Glad We Said Prosecco.

They also had some food samples available. I had already eaten a big dinner, so I didn't eat much. But they had samples of the Pad Thai Noodle Bowl.

And the Almond Butter Sandwich (with strawberries, apple slices, and cacao nibs). While Juice Bar is about 95 percent vegan, they do use bee products in some items, and this sandwich typically comes with honey. It's sold in the grab-and-go case, but the owner tells me that they can make it without honey by request. Just ask at the counter.

Most food items are prepared ahead of time and available in the grab-and-go case. Vegan options include the Sprout Sandwich, Pad Thai Noodle Bowl, Kale Quinoa Bowl, and Spring Rolls.

There are a few food items to avoid or alter if you're vegan — the Overnight Oats contain honey and bee pollen (but they are made with almond milk so if you don't avoid bee products, there's that), and since they're prepared the night before, they can't be made vegan by request. The dressing in the Nori Bowl contains honey, but it's served separately so you could eat it without the dressing (or take it home and use your own vegan dressing). The other items with honey — the Chocolate Bowl, Dragon Fruit Bowl, and the Acai Bowl — are smoothie bowls that are prepared as they're ordered, so they can be made without honey. All of the smoothies and juices are vegan, and they use plant-based protein powder.

They also sell essential oil shots and power shots (made with power foods like wheatgrass, cayenne, ginger, and turmeric). There's even a Hangover Helper with activated charcoal that I'm sure will come in handy.

And they fill growlers! I have a juicer at home, but juicing can be expensive and messy. And while I do juice at home sometimes, it's nice to have another option for when I'm too busy (or real talk, lazy).

Juice Bar is open in Crosstown Concourse Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Goddess Box: Unicorn Magic

It's Goddess Provisions box unpacking time again! I subscribe to their monthly goddess box, which is always filled with crystals, oils, vegan treats, and other magical items. This month's theme was Unicorn Magic, which is just awesome because UNICORNS! I'm so into unicorns. And really, who isn't? Here is all the magical rainbow goodness packed inside the August box.

There's a unicorn-inspired essential oil blend, a chakra oil diffuser, a rainbow energy inhaler, a unicorn makeup brush, vegan sprinkles, a self-care sticker, unicorn cream highlighter, and a rose quartz-amethyst orgone wand.

As always, the crystals are my fave, and this unicorn horn filled with rose quartz and amethyst is awesome. The tiny crystals are encased in resin. The Goddess Provisions folks suggest using this as a massager for the feet, hands, neck, and shoulders, and I've been doing just that. As a runner, my feet take a beating nearly every day, and a little personal foot massage is always in order.

There are seven different Soul Candy Chakra Diffusers, each one associated with one of the seven chakras, so it was a surprise which chakra would come in your box. Mine came with this lovely purple crown chakra stone. You're supposed to apply a little essential oil to the white part and use this in meditation. I've applied lavender oil to mine, and I keep it by my bedside to diffuse its relaxing scent while I sleep.

Sometimes the goddess boxes come with fun vegan makeup, and I'm always super-stoked when that happens. This month, there was a Let's Put a Bird On It Unicorn Dust Highlighter. It's a shiny glimmer cream that helps highlight my cheekbones (and helps my face glitter stay on!). The unicorn fan brush is cute as hell, and I've been using it to apply said face glitter.

There were a couple of smell-good stuffs in the box — a Soul Sunday Unicorn Aromatherapy Roller (with lavender and peppermint!) and an Awaken Essentials Oils Rainbow Energy Inhaler. The unicorn roller has a bright minty scent, and I've found it's great for healing headaches when rolled on my temples. The inhaler is probably my second fave thing in the box (after the crystal wand) because it smells heavenly with its blend of rose, sweet orange, lemon, green mandarin, blue chamomile, and lavender essential oils. I carry it in my purse for a mid-day energy boost.

I love this self-care sticker! So cute! I'm not sure where to put it yet, but I've been thinking of getting back into journaling. So I may save this for a future journal.

And finally, the sprinkles! These Sweetapolita Twinkle Sprinkles are so fun! They have little gold stars mixed in. It's so hard to find good vegan sprinkles, so I'm glad to have these. I'm sure they'll find their way onto homemade doughnuts and cupcakes soon.

But right away, I had to try them on this Unicorn Latte from the Goddess Provisions blog. They posted a recipe to accompany the box, and it sounded so yummy that I had to make it. It's warm almond milk with melted coconut butter, cinnamon and cardamom, dates, and beet powder for color (I subbed beet juice). I had this as a mid-afternoon snack last week, and it was delicious. The sprinkles are super-sweet, and they were just perfect with this healthy blend of good fats and spices.

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 $33 a month, and it's totally worth it. It's a great deal, and the boxes are so much fun!