Thursday, September 20, 2018

Nasoya Vegan Dumplings

Nasoysa — makers of my favorite tofu! — sent me a few free packages of their vegan dumplings to review. Few things make me happier than tofu and veggies stuffed into tender dumpling dough, so I was more than happy to oblige.

There are two varieties — Tofu Vegetable Dumplings and Thai Basil Dumplings. Each package contains about two and half servings (one serving is five dumplings).

If you've ever made fresh dumplings, you know what a pain it is to stuff and fold and cinch the ends OVER and OVER and OVER. I'd much rather have that process done for me, so Nasoya makes it easy. These are ready to fry or boil — your preference.

I tried these several ways. My favorite method, used on these Thai Basil Dumplings, was frying, of course. I used non-stick cooking spray instead of oil though because I didn't want them to be super-fatty. Since I've cut back on oil, I've found I can be pretty sensitive to too much.

These soft pillows are stuffed with tofu, peas, carrots, onion, bell pepper, and Thai basil. I'm not a huge fan of large amounts of Thai basil, but there's just a little in these so it's not at all overpowering. I served these with a bottled peanut-coconut satay sauce, and it was just perfect.

I boiled the Tofu Vegetable Dumplings, which are stuffed with tofu, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, onion, and carrot. The taste is pretty similar in both, but the mushrooms give this a little different boost of flavor. I served these with a teriyaki soy dipping sauce made with soy, teriyaki sauce, sesame seeds, water, and garlic powder. I had a green bean and tofu stir-fry on the side for a well-rounded, delicious meal.

One day, when I had to bring my lunch to work, I tried microwaving these and the texture, while a little chewier, wasn't that bad! I wouldn't recommend preparing them that way, but in a pinch, it works.

You definitely need these Nasoya dumplings in your life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My First Trader Joe's Haul

Okay, that title is deceptive. I've been to Trader Joe's plenty of times and have had many a haul. But always from a Trader Joe's in another city.  Now, after YEARS of stops and starts, our Trader Joe's store in Memphis is FINALLY OPEN. It's an autumn miracle!

Technically, Trader Joe's is located in Germantown, Tennessee, which is a small suburban town on the outskirts of Memphis. But it's close enough that Memphis is claiming it. Now, I can get to TJ's in 30 minutes versus the 3.5 hours that it took to drive to the store in Nashville.

Cassi and I went on opening night — last Friday, September 14 — and it was INSANE. Parking was a challenge, and maneuvering through the crowded store was even more challenging. People and carts were bumping into each other. Items were selling out. Registers were breaking down. It was a madhouse, but it was so worth the hassle.

I plan to start posting my TJ's hauls (inspired by my favorite posts from Long Island Vegan). Unfortunately, I didn't think of that until I'd already eaten a few things — TJ's Baked Tofu and TJ's Firm Tofu. So those are missing from my pics. But here is everything else — Daily Bread Sprouted Whole Grain Bread, Organic Charles Shaw Pinot Noir (!!!! $5 buck chuck!!!!!!), Soy Creamer, Sriracha, Soy Sauce, ABC (almond butter cocoa) Bars, Tempeh, and Mouth Wash.

Some of this was stuff I needed anyway (like the tempeh and mouth wash), and other products are among my TJ's faves — the wine and sriracha. The ABC Bars are new this month, and they're awesome. Even better than Clif Nut Butter-Filled Bars!

I did not get my Vitamix at TJ's, but it made a cameo in the above pic. :-)

I also got this stuff — Strawberry Raspberry Oats, Tart Cherry Chia & Pumpkin Seed Oats, Coconut Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate, and Apple Cider hand soap.

I'm traveling this weekend, so the oat cups and coffee are going with me. And that hand soap smells like fall!

I am soooooo excited to have TJ's in the area! What are your fave TJ's products? I need some ideas for what to buy next time!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Pizza & Oatmeal & Tater Skins!

This past Saturday was our annual Cooper Young Festival, a massive arts/crafts/music fest in Midtown's Cooper Young neighborhood. Megan, Cassi, and I rented Bird scooters and scooted there since parking cars during CY Fest is always a nightmare. After walking around the fest for a couple hours, we were pretty hungry. So we grabbed Vegan Cheese Pizza Slices to go from Imagine Vegan Cafe (which is located smack in the heart of Cooper Young). Slices were just $3, and so were the beers (I got a Crosstown Brewing Traffic IPA).

Later that night, I joined my friend Misti for her birthday dinner at Midtown Crossing Grill. I hadn't eaten anything since that slice and was famished. These Vegan Potato Skins with mushrooms, Daiya, and arugula hit the spot.

This morning, I had a Dave's Bagels Whole Wheat Bagel with Miyoko's Creamery Plainly Vegan Cream Cheese & Hot Pepper Peach Jam. HIT THE SPOT, y'all.

I ate my lunch out on the second floor patio at Crosstown Concourse again today. Had a Hummus & Roasted Veggie Sandwich with roasted eggplant, bell pepper, tomato, baby spinach, and roasted garlic hummus. Plus, some more Vegan Dude potato chips (cheese pizza flavor today!).

Been eating lots of oats lately! One of my oat bowls last week had fresh plums, maple syrup, unsweetened almond butter powder (mixed in) and sunflower butter (on top).

Yesterday, I had oats with frozen berries (cooked in), maple, and peanut butter. Tasted like a PB&J!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Tacos & Sandwiches & Pizza!

New Wing Order –  a new Memphis food truck specializing in hot wings — also offers something for vegans! Yay! They have Fried Avocado Tacos with vegan sriracha aioli and pineapple slaw, and they are to die for. They're even marked VEGAN on the menu, which I think is super-rad because it's really nice that they offer something for everyone. I was invited to their VIP truck opening last Friday night at Memphis Made Brewing Co., so I got a couple tacos (and washed down with Memphis Made Huggy Bear Brown Ale).

I have a busy week ahead, so I brought my lunch to work instead of heading home for lunch (I live about 5 minutes from my office, so I typically lunch at home). I had planned to work through lunch and nibble at my desk, but it was just too nice of a day for that.

So I took a quick break outside and read Rich Roll's Finding Ultra while I enjoyed a Mustard Baked Tofu Sandwich (with Trader Joe's baked tofu, sauteed spinach & shallots, sliced tomato, and maple-dijon mustard) from The Vegan Reset Cookbook, along with a side of the BEST EVER CHIPS. These Vegan Cheddar & Sour Cream Chips are made by Vegan Dude Foods, and they taste just like the sour cream & cheddar chips of my youth. My dad ordered these from Vegan Essentials. So good! Full review (with more flavors) coming soon.

My life hasn't been all fried food and chips though. I did have this Mint To Be Green Smoothie from I Love Juice Bar at Crosstown Concourse one day last week before an evening yoga class. Mint, pineapple, mango, coconut milk, and apple juice. Yum!

Here's a Saturday morning ramen bowl! With Soy Curls, peas, carrots, and corn. The noodles are Koyo Tofu Miso. LOVE!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Crosstown Arts Cafe

The long-awaited plant-based cafe at Crosstown Arts — where I work — is NOW OPEN! I can literally open my office door, walk about 30 steps, and find myself at the adorable retro teal green counter where one of our lovely cafe staff is waiting to take my order. We call it plant-based, but there are a couple vegetarian items (with eggs or cheese). I'd say 95 percent of the menu is vegan. Plus, there are daily pastries (generally always vegan!), coffee drinks (with numerous plant milk options), and beer/wine.

Just take a look at these pastries (all vegan!) and a fancy macchiato from our baristas.

And a few inside-the-cafe shots.

I'd say this is probably the greatest thing that's happened to me all year. And it's great for Memphis because our cafe is offering whole foods-based, scratch-made, mostly vegan meals in large portions with accessible prices. You really can't beat that. Full disclosure: As the communications coordinator at Crosstown Arts, it's my job to talk up the place. But I promise I'd be just as excited about this cafe if I didn't work here.

The cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Tuesday-Friday from 8 am-7 pm, and on Saturdays, 10 am-4 pm for brunch (hours will be expanding soon). The cafe feeds both our resident artists (who come to Crosstown Arts from across the world) and the general public, making it a unique meeting space for artists to intersect with the greater Memphis community.

Chef Raymond and his crew are putting out some amazing dishes! My very favorite thing is the Chicken Fried Tofu over grits and greens. Chef has actually changed the cut of the tofu in later versions of this dish to be triangle-shaped, but this is the only pic I have for now. I could eat this every day.

The Thai Green Curry Bowl has a citrusy-coconut milk base with brown rice, veggies, and chunks of tempeh. The enoki mushrooms on top really step it up!

We have an in-house baker, Ali, who makes all of our breads and pastries, and she even bakes fresh buns for the Vegetable Burger (black beans/mushrooms/beets). Served here with crispy Home Fries. 

She also makes the marbled rye for the Seitan Pastrami Sandwich, which features Raymond's house-made seitan. It's thinly sliced and seasoned. So good you'd think this came from a vegan butcher shop! Served with Creole coleslaw and pickles. On the side, I had the Green Salad with baby greens, apple, radish, sunflower seeds, and the best-ever rice wine vinaigrette.

The Curry Tofu Salad is my second fave menu item (after the chicken fried tofu). Here's an older pic when Raymond was testing it as a sandwich. It was delicious but messy, so it's now offered atop a salad. Either way, it's to die for — curry mayo, chunky baked tofu, grapes, onion, celery, and spices. I'm craving it just thinking about it.

There's a Fried Chickpeas dish on the snacks menu that is absolutely addictive. These peas are fried with sage and seasoned with lemon and spices. I highly recommend grabbing an order to share with a friend! You can also order a smaller side dish of these with your sandwich.

The pastries and coffee drinks are offered all day, so every morning, on my way into the office, I'm forced to walk past pastries like this, Vegan Cream Cheese Danish (which Alli made with cultured cashew cream!!). Some days, I'm able to fight the urge. Other days, I give in, but I try to at least split my goods with my vegan co-worker/food buddy Madelyn.

It's also pretty amazing having a coffee bar right outside my office. They make the best oat milk lattes (soy and almond are also available, but oat is my fave!).

I've not yet tried the breakfast menu, but it includes a vegan yogurt & granola bowl that I can't wait to try. And I've yet to stop in on a Saturday for brunch but soon.

In addition to the regular menu items, the cafe also offers daily specials, so be sure to look out for those. 

In case you're wondering what we do here at Crosstown Arts, we have art galleries, a cafe and bar (I'll share more on the bar on the blog soon), a music venue, a 425-seat black-box theater, and an artist residency program. Here's a little background from our vision statement:
Crosstown Arts is a contemporary arts organization dedicated to further cultivating the creative community in Memphis. 
We provide resources and create opportunities and experiences to inspire, support, and connect a diverse range of creative people, projects, and audiences. 
The spaces and programs we manage integrate varying components of exhibition, performance, production, education, and retail. We welcome anyone in the community to join any of our events or projects, regardless of prior experience or expertise with creative interests.
Crosstown Arts Cafe is located in Crosstown Concourse, 1350 Concourse Ave., Suite 280. Check out the menu here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Vegan Reset Cookbook

Y'all know I LOVE a good reset! Every January, I spent 3-4 weeks on some healthy eating plan, usually with mostly whole foods and very little processed food. Sometimes low sugar or low salt. Other times, no alcohol (but in recent years, I've stopped trying to give that up because that's just a tad too far for me!).

I'm probably embarking on a mini-reset soon, perhaps in late September. Working now on what that looks like. But I won't do a full-on 28 days until January because the fall and winter holidays are too hard to work around. But I do know EXACTLY what book I'll be turning to come January 1.

Vegan Reset: The 28-Day Plan to Kickstart Your Healthy Lifestyle by Kim Julie-Hansen just hit stands and is a gorgeous meal plan with tips on meditation, journaling, and exercise. It's a perfect program all wrapped up into one easy package!

I'll get into the nuts and bolt later in this post, but I wanted to show you a couple dishes I made from the book so far. I skipped ahead past the meal plan recipes to the Additional Recipes section to find this Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese Sauce, which I served over whole wheat elbow pasta.

This whole foods-based cheese is soooooooo creamy, and it's made from real plants, like sweet potatoes, cashews, bell pepper, garlic, nooch, and spices. I've read about squash or potato-based cheese sauces (this recipe gives you the option of sweet potato, butternut squash, or white potato) before, but I've never tried one. It blew me away how creamy and tasty this was!

On the side, I picked a recipe from Day 8 on the meal plan — Avocado Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. This simple salad is massaged with the vinaigrette and avocado, and it's flecked with raisins and sunflower seeds. It's supposed to be lunch (all of it!) on Day 8, but you'd be eating a much bigger portion. I had this small amount on the side.

Here's a meal shot! Such a great combo!

Vegan Reset opens with tips on movement, deep breathing techniques, journaling, and meditation. The author goes into why resets are important and busts myths about "detoxing" (which your body does just fine on its own, thank you!).

The meal plan is divided into four weeks, and each has a shopping list with everything you need for the week. Each day is prefaced with a prep section so you know what you need to do the night before. As a serious meal planner, this makes me SO HAPPY.

Meals are simple and whole. For example, Day 1 prescribes a Raspberry Peanut Butter Shake for breakfast, Purple Cabbage Boats with Peanut Tofu for lunch, Watermelon & Pear for snacks, and Loaded Sweet Potatoes for dinner. Day 2 starts with Watermelon & Orange Slices for breakfast, a Sweet Potato Bowl for lunch, Fruit & Peanut Butter for a snack, and Chickpea Cabbage Boats for dinner.

The recipes don't repeat, which concerned me a little as one who can't afford to cook every meal from scratch every day (I live on leftovers), but I noticed that most of the ingredients you buy are used for multiple meals (see the above cabbage and chickpea boats for an example). So I think that would make this plan affordable.

After the 28 days, she includes tips on staying vegan (for newbies) with recipes for homemade skincare products and other lifestyle tips. And then in the back of the book, you'll find non-reset recipes (like this mac & cheese) that would be great for continuing with healthy eating goals after the plan is over.

You'll definitely be seeing this book again (A LOT) on this blog in January. And hey, if anyone wants to do the plan with me, let me know! We can do a virtual reset together!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Pizza & Pie & Bowls! Oh My!

This past Friday, I drove home to Jonesboro, Arkansas to visit my parents, and my mom picked up takeout pizza from Uncle Maddio's. She got me a Tofu & Veggie Pizza with vegan mozz, mushrooms, red onion, bell pepper, spinach, and extra olives. YUM.

After dinner, she thawed out a frozen Peanut Butter Pie that she'd made a week or so earlier. This pie is my dad and my fave! It has vegan cream cheese and PB, plus a graham crust and chocolate ganache.

Her cookie jar was almost empty, but I spied a few Vegan Shortbread Cookies (decorated like sewing supplies) from Jonesboro's vegan baker Kind Confections. She ordered them awhile back, but they keep for a long time. I snagged a few and took them home with me. Enjoyed the next day with a cold glass of almond milk.

Here's my Saturday morning Ramen Noodle Bowl this week. This one has Soy Curls, Koyo Mushroom Ramen, peas, carrots, and corn. I always use frozen veggies for my ramen because it's super-fast. And ramen should be super-fast.

Pam and Megan came over Sunday night to celebrate the New Moon. We set intentions and did some Tarot readings. But first, we snacked on cashew cheese and crackers, hummus & veggies, popcorn, vegan s'mores, and watermelon. Somehow, I only managed to get a pic of Pam's homemade cashew cheddar. It was amazing!! We had it with hot pepper peach jelly on crackers.

I've been all about bowls lately. I got this idea for a Bean/Grain/Green Bowl with salsa and hummus on top from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. The grain is brown rice, the bean is pinto, and the green is spinach. Plus, I added some air-fried squash. There's a great section in that book with all sorts of topping suggestions for bowls!

Here's another bowl — a Soy Curl & Broccoli Stir-Fry over quinoa. I used 365 teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seed for flavor.

And finally, my breakfasts this week have been Savory Oats from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. SO GOOD. Oats with carrot & spinach, seasoned with nooch and salsa, and topped with avocado and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Lulu's Pop-Up Biscuit Brunch

Our friends Don and Kenzie of Lulu's Baked (a pop-up restaurant/bakery/cheese maker/pizza cult leader) hosted their second pop-up vegan brunch at Fuel Cafe, where Don works by day as a pizza chef. Fuel is closed on Sundays, unless Don is hosting a special brunch! A few weeks ago, a few friends and I attended the first brunch, and you can read all about that here.

This second brunch was all about the biscuits! Don is a master breadmaker, so he made lots of sourdough bread for the last event. And this time, he created hundreds of flaky, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits. The biggest hit was the Breakfast Slider Plate, which most of us, including myself, ordered. This had biscuits and country gravy, a biscuit slider with chicken-fried tofu and a peach pickle, and a slider with blackeyed pea sausage, cashew cheese, tofu egg, and jam.

SOOOOOOO GOOOD. I wish I could eat this for brunch every weekend. The chicken-fried tofu slider was a table fave! And he should really start selling his blackeyed pea sausage because it's stuff of magic.

I also ordered a cup of coffee, which was served by a woman who roasts beans locally. The beans are sourced from central Kenya. They're wet-processed and sundried. The brew was tart and almost cranberry-like in flavor. Very different from the beans I'm used to but very good. I'm working on being a better coffee snob.

Simon deviated from the rest of the table and ordered a plate of Biscuit & Gravy — just a bigger portion of what was on our slider plate.

He also ordered the Gazoz, a ginger/peach/rosemary soda, which was made to order.

A few people also ordered sides of Chunky Potatoes. I knew the slider plate would be enough for me, so I didn't. But they looked good.

Here's the full menu. I saw a few people in the restaurant with bowls of the Tomato & Tofu Breakfast Stew, and it looked very good! I almost asked a random stranger if I could take a picture of his food, but then I thought better of it.

I loved that they included this note about the sourcing of ingredients. It highlights the local products, as well as the ethicalness of each ingredient. It's nice to know where your food comes from. They also included a note about the average rent price in Memphis versus how much people make, and it's startling. Nice little social justice fact thrown in!

Lulu's next pop-up brunch at Fuel Cafe is September 30 from 11 am-2 pm. Be there!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Another Perfect Day

Back in November, I blogged about a "perfect day" of eating, following No Meat Athlete podcaster/cookbook author Matt Frazier's guidelines for how he aspires to eat in a day. The "perfect day" prescription is in his 7 Daily Foods Cheat Sheet, which you can download for free here.

But it really comes down to a simple formula — smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch, green/grain/bean bowl for dinner,  and whole foods-based snacks. And that's what I did today! I've been eating a lot of desserts lately since our new plant-based cafe is open at Crosstown Arts, where I work (and we have vegan danishes!). So I needed a day free of sugar and full of wholesome things. By the way, expect a full post about that cafe very soon!

Anyway, my morning started with half a Nature's Path Superfood Dark Chocolate Peanut snack bar (made with peanuts, chocolate, chia, and other whole foods) before a lovely bike ride around Midtown. After my workout, I had this giant smoothie made with the recipe for Matt's Kid-Friendly Everyday Double Berry Banana Smoothie from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. 

This has one-and-a-half bananas (for one serving; recipe makes two), a frozen berry mix, almond milk, spinach, ground flax, and raw walnut butter (recipe called for walnuts, but I was out so I used walnut butter). I rarely make smoothies without protein powder, so this was different. And still pretty filling! I loved how creamy it was with all that banana.

Morning snack at work was Baby Carrots & Roasted Red Pepper Hummus — which I've been eating every day at work this week.

And I went home for lunch to this lovely and giant Salad with Chickpeas, Quinoa, & Oil-Free Garlic Tahini Dressing! Filled up a whole mixing bowl. It also had carrot, cherry tomato, cucumber, green olives, red onion, broccoli, raisins, and Trader Joe's Seedy Salad Topper (a mix of almonds, pepitas, and some mystery seeds that are kinda spicy!).

Afternoon snack was Watermelon!! The personal-sized melons have been on sale at Kroger for $1.50 for the past week or so, and I've gone through two now. Served with pink salt, of course.

Dinner wasn't exactly a bean/green/grain bowl because it didn't have grains. Instead I used a base of steamed potatoes for this Pinto Broccoli Nacho Bowl. 

Steamed white potatoes on the bottom, topped with sauteed broccoli, slow-cooked pintos (made in my slow cooker all day!), a noochy cheese sauce (from Cookin' Crunk), salsa, and avocado.

After all that great eating, I had to reward myself with a beer! We had a Crosstown Memphis CDC meeting tonight at Midtown Crossing Grill, so I ordered a Crosstown Brewing Co. Margarita Gose beer to toast to my health. :-) Given how often Matt and Doug talk about beer on the NMA podcast, I think they'd approve of working beer into a perfect day!