Thursday, March 21, 2019

Vegan Eggy Eats for Spring!

Yesterday was the first day of Spring, and I couldn't be more thrilled! I hate winter with a passion. I hate being cold. I hate having dry skin. I hate wearing layers and shoes with socks. I hate dead plants. But Spring is here, and that means green plants and warmer weather and supple skin and — most importantly — tee-shirts, shorty-shorts, flats, and tank tops. Oh, and brunching on patios (the ultimate Spring experience).

The Spring Equinox is also known as Ostara, and traditionally, eggs are eaten to celebrate the Earth's fertility (hence the Easter tradition with dyed eggs). So every year on Ostara, I center my meals around vegan eggs. Yesterday for lunch, I tried the Just for All Egg (finally found it for sale in Memphis!) in a Breakfast Burrito.

I'll do a full post on Just Egg soon, but for now I'll just say, this stuff is amazing! It really does taste and look like real eggs. Also in my burrito: roasted potatoes, tempeh bacon, spinach, vegan cheese, and salsa.

After work, my friends Megan and Pam came over for an Ostara ritual and celebration. We enjoyed my Tofu Eggless Olive Salad from Cookin' Crunk on multigrain crackers.

And I made the Classic Kale Salad from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. I love this versatile recipe that suggests different veggie, nut, and dried fruit options. For this version, I used carrots, red cabbage, celery, red onion, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries. Plus, I used springy herbs, like dill, thyme, and tarragon.

Pam brought some Treeline Garlic-Herb Cashew Cheese and wine, so we also had plenty of wine and cheese. For dessert, I grabbed a few springy treats from the cafe at Crosstown Arts for us to split. I got a slice of Carrot-Pineapple Cake.

And a Meyor Lemon Almond Handpie. I cut these into little bite-sized pieces so we could all try them.

After our feast, we did a seed blessing and planted lavender, thyme, and lemon balm infused with our hopes and intentions for the year ahead. And we did Tarot readings! Happy Ostara!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bialy! Pancakes! Tea Cake!

I rarely make pancakes, but I got a craving for some late last week. I finally got my pancake fix on Saturday morning when I made the Almond Butter Banana Pancakes from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. 

These are made with whole wheat pastry flour and almond flour, and almond butter stands in for the fat (so they're mostly oil-free except for a little spray oil on the griddle). They're also refined sugar-free since banana provides sweetness in the batter and maple on top. I added blueberries to my batter because why not?

Later that morning, I stopped by the Lulu's booth at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market and grabbed one of Don's vegan Caramelized Onion & Poppyseed Bialys. This savory bun made the perfect side for a salad at lunch.

Don was also selling tubs of his cultured Cashew Coffee Cream Cheese — a vegan cream cheese made with finely ground coffee. I enjoyed some on a whole wheat Dave's Bagel for breakfast on Monday morning (my workout rest day this week). The cream is very lightly sweetened with a strong coffee flavor. It tasted great and I felt like it gave me an extra boost!

Here's a Savory Oat Bowl from last week! With nooch, spinach, broccoli, avocado, everything bagel seasoning, and sriracha. I'm such a fan of savory oats, especially when topped with ALL THE AVOCADO.

And finally, here's a moist and delicious slice of Mixed Berry Tea Cake from the cafe at Crosstown Arts. I'd brought berries from home as my afternoon snack, and when I saw this tea cake on the counter, I knew it'd be the perfect accompaniment. Enjoyed with Earl Grey tea made in the office Kerig.

Happy Spring, y'all! I'll be back tomorrow with a very vegan-eggy spring foods post!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Upton's Naturals Cheesy Mac

My top five fave foods:
1. Ramen
2. Pizza
3. Doughnuts
4. Tacos/Burritos (I'm counting this as one because I can't decide)
5. Mac & Cheeze

So it goes without saying that I don't let a new vegan mac & cheeze product pass me by. Sure, I love creating a creamy, cheesy whole foods-based pasta at home using nooch, cashews, or butternut squash. But I also love trying the easy packaged versions for those nights when you just don't have time to cook.

Friday night was one of those nights, so I turned to a box of Upton's Natural Cheesy Mac that I'd been holding onto for a few weeks.

I found it for sale at Natural Grocers in Jonesboro, Arkansas (an hour from Memphis, my hometown), and as a fan of all things Upton's, I had to put it in my cart. Memphis readers, we may have this here, but I haven't looked!

This shelf-stable mac comes in a box with a vacuum-sealed bag of pre-cooked, wide-noodle elbow mac and a pouch of liquid cheese (similar to the pouch in the boxed Daiya mac). The cheese is made from nutritional yeast, rice bran oil, sea salt, cornstarch, mustard, onion, garlic, paprika, turmeric, sugar. So while this may not be the most whole food (hey there, white pasta), it's not bad! The sauce is made with minimal ingredients, and they're all real foods.

To prepare, you simply dump the pasta and cheese in a pan and heat. Takes about two minutes. The result is a creamy, noochy pasta that made a perfect side for my Gardein crispy tenders and agave-mustard dipping sauce (told ya it was a busy night) and some steamed broccoli with tahini sauce.

Will I buy this again? You bet!

Monday, March 18, 2019

St. Patrick's Day Fun!

St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays! I've got a little Irish in my family lineage, as well as Scottish and German, so drinking booze is something I'm pretty good at. ;-) Plus, I love any excuse to wear green and eat green foods.

My St. Pat's celebration started on Thursday night with the annual Breakaway Running St. Pat's Pub Run, my favorite running tradition. This fun run starts at Breakaway Running (my local running store) in Overton Square and runs to bars/breweries Hammer & Ale, Memphis Made Brewing Co., Railgarten, and Slider Inn. Megan and Misti joined me! So much fun.

The highlight for me was probably the chance to try the new Sam Adams 26.2 Marathon Brew at Hammer & Ale, which they brewed in honor of the Boston Marathon.

On Saturday, I attended the annual St. Patrick's Day parade on Beale with my friend Susan, and then we checked out the Saint Pawtrick's Day soft opening for the new Lucky's Social Club dog park bar (!!!!) downtown. I didn't take any pics on Saturday though.

On Sunday, I woke up early and had some Irish Coffee with Bailey's Almande almondmilk liqueur and a bagel before taking off on a 16-mile long run. It was the first time since my last foot injury that I'd put in that many miles, and it felt great! But I did get a pretty bad sunburn on my face because I forgot to wear sunscreen (because I forgot what sun is since we haven't seen it here in what feels like ages).

After my run, I had a Green Smoothie (natch) with peaches, banana, walnuts, spinach, and vanilla Vega One French Vanilla protein powder.

After my smoothie, we did some vegan Irish car bombs at home with Guinness (so glad it's vegan now!), Bailey's Almande, and Jameson. I realize that "car bombs" as a cocktail name isn't the most PC thing, but I don't know what else to call them! 

Paul and I had plans to bar-hop for St. Patty's Day, but first, I made us some dinner — Vegan Bangers & Mash (with homemade seitan sausages, mashed potatoes, gravy, and peas). We both loved this, and I will be making it again. I had the sausages in the freezer, leftover from a meal a few months back.

After dinner, we headed to Ghost River Brewing Co. to try their limited edition Magic Car Bomb beer, a dark brew with hints of Jameson, vanilla, and Irish cream extract (non-dairy!). 

Next stop was Carolina Watershed, a bar inside an old grain silo with a great outdoor patio space with waterfalls! There, we had the Diamond Bear Irish Red (a brew from neighboring Little Rock, Arkansas).

And finally, we headed back to Crosstown for a nightcap at Art Bar at Crosstown Arts (yes, I hang out at work on my off days). I opted for the very green Six Paths to Sage cocktail with gin, green chartreuse, sage, and lime. Very good! Enjoyed in Art Bar's cat room because it's my fave.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Chickpea Spaghetti! Potato Turnover! Smoothie!

I'm still loving the No Meat Athlete Sauce System, a blog post on their site that includes recipes for five simple sauces and all kinds of ways to use them. Last night, I made the tomato sauce recipe (an easy sauce with canned tomatoes, onion, and garlic), but I added a splash of red wine and a touch of agave to cut the acidity.

Oh, and at the end, I added a can of can of chickpeas. After cooking, I put the whole thing in the Vitamix and blended until creamy, so I ended up with a creamy tomato sauce that sneaks the beans in! No Meat Athlete host Matt mentioned this tip on a recent podcast. He does that to get his kids to eat beans. And though I have no problem eating enough beans, I just liked the idea of a sauce that gets its creaminess from beans instead of plant milk.

Served atop Explore Cuisine's black bean spaghetti with steamed kale on top to make the meal an official bean/grain/green meal!

My post-run smoothie this morning was especially good! I used an orange, a frozen banana, Wyman's Mango Berry frozen fruit blend (with mango, blueberry, and strawberry), baby spinach, raw walnuts, and flax seed. Enjoyed in the giant St. Jude smoothie cup I won for raising money for St. Jude during the run-up to the last St. Jude Marathon.

And finally, here is a thing of beauty — Potato & Broccoli Turnover by our baker at Crosstown Arts! I was trying not to buy dessert at work yesterday, and I succeeded at that. But she also had these savory turnovers, which technically were not dessert so ... 

Those flaky layers! OMG. 

I'm off to enjoy the annual Breakaway Running St. Patrick's Day Pub Run! I'll check in after the weekend with St. Pat's recap. Don't forget your green on Sunday! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bibimbap! BLT!

It seems like all my random meal round-up these days feature food from the cafe at Crosstown Arts (where I work as the communications coordinator), but when there's amazing vegan food right outside your office door, what's a girl to do? Today for lunch, I had the Bibimbap with added tofu (minus the egg).

This is typically served with a fried egg on top. The cafe is not entirely vegan (but I'd say 90% of the items are), but anything can be made vegan. For this, you could simply leave the egg off. Or you can pay a couple extra bucks and add tofu on top! I saw someone post this version on Instagram last week and had to try it.

The bowl is made from fried rice paper, and it's stuffed with pink rice, brussels sprouts, kimchi, and zucchini, plus the most amazing baked tofu.

My breakfast this morning was Overnight Oats with Chia, Walnuts, Berries, & Banana, enjoyed after a core work class at the YMCA. I love having creamy overnight oats prepared to enjoy after my workouts!

And here's my dinner last night — a BLT from Imagine Vegan Cafe. Such a classic. Stuffed with veggie bacon, avocado, tomato, lettuce, and vegan mayo. It's usually served on a white hoagie bun, but I like to sub wheat bread instead. Side of kale.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Banh Mi! Galette! Burrito!

Lulu's Food hosted another vegan pop-up brunch this past Sunday at Fuel Cafe. The theme this time was sandwiches! Don made homemade bagels and did a vegan carrot lox & bagel sandwich thing, and he also made Breakfast Banh Mis. As much as I love a bagel, I cannot resist a banh mi!

Don's homemade baguettes were stuffed with tofu scramble, mushroom pecan pate, harissa, and pickled carrots — all made-in-house. Served with roasted potatoes. Sooooooo good.

But before I ate that around 11:30 am on Sunday, I had this tasty slice of Avocado Toast with a side of fresh berries. First breakfast to tide me over. I topped the toast with sriracha and Spice Hunter Bagel Crunch, a knock-off of TJ's Everything But the Bagel. It's good, but it's salt-free so it's not as good as the original.

I've been eating a lot of Black Bean & Brown Rice Burritos lately! I'm using the oil-free refried black beans from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook (which I made a few weeks ago and froze some) with brown rice and various fillings. This one, enjoyed in the dark yesterday because my power was out (thanks to a transformer blowing up!), has beans and rice, steamed potato, vegan cheddar, salsa, and lettuce. Luckily, when the power goes out, I can still cook on my gas stove. It came back on around 8 pm last night (after being off for 12 hours!).

And I've saved the best for last! Ali, our baker at the cafe at Crosstown Arts, made these amazing Black Sesame & Almond, Mixed Citrus, and Blueberry Galettes this morning. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the sesame seed in there, but I could not resist those flaky layers. And turns out the sesame was a perfect complement to the sweet fruit filling. Was planning to split with a co-worker, but I decided it was too good to share.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cheeseburger Pizza, Tofu Chicken, & Kool-Aid Pickles!

The cafe at Crosstown Arts (where I work) has two menus – an ALWAYS menu and a TODAY menu. The ALWAYS menu stays the same for several months at a time, only changing with the seasons. But the TODAY menu changes, well, everyday. And Fridays are flatbread days! Flatbread Fridays! A couple weeks back, the featured flatbread was this Cheeseburger Flatbread with Impossible burger crumbles, cheese (I opted for non-dairy cheese), fried onions, vegan aioli, and pickled shishitos. It was SO GOOD.

Here's another amazing plate from Crosstown Arts. The TODAY menu also features a daily vegetable plate, which stays the same for a week at a time. Last week, it featured Grilled Eggplant, Roasted Brussels, Sizzled Kale, and Carrot Puree. I loved all the different textures from the various cooking methods, and that kale was OFF THE CHAIN Y'ALL. It was fried and very crispy, like a perfect kale chip. Best veggie plate I've ever had.

Down the stairs from my Crosstown Arts office inside Crosstown Concourse, there's a new popcorn shop — Pop-a-Roo's — that just opened. Not only do they have popcorn, but they also carry KOOL-AID PICKLES! This is a Southern thing, but I'd somehow never tried it. Probably because I'd never actually seen a real-life Kool-Aid pickle. I'll try anything though, so I bought some as soon as I heard they had them. And you know what? They're freaking good. They sell grape and red (guess it's cherry?), and the grape is definitely the better flavor. I know this is a combo that shouldn't work, but it does. It tastes like a sweet and sour grape pickle.

Here's a less-weird meal that I made at home last night — No-Chicken Tofu Bites with Agave Mustard, Oven Roasted Fries with Curry Ketchup Aioli, and Roasted Asparagus. 

The no-chicken tofu bites are actually a recipe for the air fryer from my dad. They're really good! You bread the tofu in a batter that's seasoned with vegan chicken broth and then coat with panko. This entire meal was basically oil-free, aside from a few spritzes of cooking spray. I feel best when I'm eating oil-free!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The No Meat Athlete Sauce System!

No Meat Athlete recently put out a podcast (and accompanying blog post) about hosts Matt and Doug's favorite healthy dinner — the grain/green/bean meal. As their post mentions, this can be as simple as a bean and veggie bowl with brown rice. Or it can be something more creative, like tempeh (counts as a bean) tacos with red cabbage (counts as a green) on corn tortillas (counts as a grain).

I know that I feel healthiest when I'm eating bean/grain/green-inspired meals, and I loved all the fresh ideas they threw out. I'll be trying a number of them over the next few weeks. They also included a link to a past blog post on their No Meat Athlete Sauce System, a fancy name for NMA co-host Doug Hay's favorite five whole foods-based sauce recipes and various ways to use them. You can see all the recipes and serving suggestions here.

When I was making my grocery list last week, I picked out two sauces to try. Starting meal planning with a sauce rather than the main ingredient is a new way of thinking for me, and it's fun! After all, the sauce makes the meal. One of the sauces I selected was the Coconut Curry, which I used for this tofu stir-fry.

This fits into the grain/green/bean category since I have tofu (beans), brown rice (grains), and cauliflower and green beans (both count as greens!). Plus, there's red pepper thrown in there for fun.

A stir-fry was one of the main uses mentioned for this easy coconut milk-based sauce, but they also suggest using it as the base of a curry soup or to add peanut butter and make peanut noodle bowls. Yum!

Other sauces in the system include a tomato sauce, lemon tahini, teriyaki, and cashew cream, with plenty of suggestions for using them all. Next week, I'll make their recipe for tomato sauce and blend in some chickpeas (Matt's suggestion for sneaking beans into pasta) and then serve it over whole wheat pasta with kale and mushrooms.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Mardi Gras Fun!

Yesterday was Mardi Gras! Although Memphis is about six hours north of New Orleans, we still party pretty hard up here on Fat Tuesday. And besides, I'm all about a holiday! I started my morning off with some gentle yoga and foam rolling since my legs were still sore from the half-marathon on Sunday. And then I skipped my usual smoothie or oats and went right for the white bread carbs with a King Cake Bagel by Dave's Bagels, spread with vegan cream cheese.

Aren't these adorable? They're not flavored, but the colors are so festive!

Every year, I make a Vegan King Cake to take to work, and this one was no exception. I always use an old recipe by Kittee Berns that I don't believe exists on the internet anymore (sadness). But I have a printed copy that I use. This year, I filled my cake with cooked apples, vegan cream cheese, and cinnamon.

My boss insisted that we do a photo shoot of me cutting the cake by the amazing lights outside the Crosstown Arts bathroom. Believe it or not, our bathroom lights are one of the most photographed backdrops in Memphis (I have no stats to back that up, but I have to walk through photo shoots when I walk to the bathroom at least once a day). The bathroom even has its own Instagram account!

Here's an inside shot! I enjoyed this with a cup of coffee at my desk mid-morning.

For lunch, I brought Blackened Tofu Scramble Over Kale & Garlicky Grits from The Superfun Time Vegan Holiday Cookbook's Mardi Gras section. I've made this in the past and loved it, so I knew I wanted to make this quick, Cajun-spiced meal again.

Crosstown Concourse, the building where I work, partnered with the Crosstown Memphis CDC (a board I serve on) to throw a Mardi Gras Celebration in the afternoon. We had music by a second line band and the Kingsbury High drum line.

Some local drag queens led the second line parade around the building!

After the party, I headed to Imagine Vegan Cafe to eat their delicious Vegan Chicken & Sausage Gumbo with a side salad (served with vegan honey mustard). I love this creamy, meaty gumbo topped with brown rice, and the salad made me feel better after all that sugar earlier.

After dinner, I went home and wound down with an Abita Mardi Gras Bock beer (and my cat Polaris, who makes this funny face because he's missing one of his front fangs).

Today begins Lent, which I haven't observed since high school (went I went through a Catholic phase). But I'm a sucker for a detox (and the retox that follows!), so I've decided to give up my favorite food, ramen, until the Lenten season ends on April 18. Nothing against ramen, but I do have a tendency to eat ramen as a late night snack on weekends (typically when Paul makes a bowl at, say, 10 pm on a Saturday and doesn't finish it). This will help me curb that late-night snacking (and I'll have a better appreciation for ramen when it's over!).

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

2019 Little Rock Half-Marathon Race Recap

Happy Fat Tuesday, y'all! I've been celebrating Mardi Gras all day with themed eats, parties, and beer. And I'll have a full report on that tomorrow, but first, I need to catch y'all up with how the Little Rock Half-Marathon went last Sunday.

This was my fourth year running Little Rock (I've done the half there three times and the full once), and it was my sixth half-marathon in total. I'm sooooo glad to be healthy and fully healed after two stress fractures last year. And I was even more glad that my partner Paul signed up to run this race with me. Paul has run three half-marathons including this one, and we've done a number of shorter races together. But this was our first half-marathon together.

We woke up at 5:30 am at my friend Sheridan & Drew's house in Little Rock and had bagels (with cinnamon almond butter for me and Earth Balance for Paul). Aren't these Mardi Gras-themed king cake bagels by Dave's Bagels the cutest?! More on those in tomorrow's Mardi Gras recap.

Sheridan (my BFF since 8th grade) is super-awesome and woke up very early to drive us downtown for the race. She lives about 20 minutes away, so she's the bestest for doing this for me every year! It was SO COLD on Sunday (with temps in the low 30s at 7 am when we arrived), but fortunately the Little Rock race offers a warm place inside the Statehouse Convention Center to hang out pre-race. I snacked on a banana while we waited.

At 8 am, we were off! Not only was it cold, it was also drizzly for most of the race. That drizzle even turned to sleet and then hail at one point! Oh, and the wind! Bitterly cold winds. The weather could not have been less ideal, but the good thing about running is it warms your body temp significantly, so it always feels about 10-20 degrees warmer than it is. Despite the crappy weather, we felt good for most of the race! 

We were offered beer samples around mile 9 (thanks Stones Throw Brewing!) and mile 12 (thanks Dugan's Pub!), and we took some mimosa shots from a kind volunteer on the course. Oh, and someone was passing out grilled pineapple around mile 10(ish), and that was AMAZING. A religious group was offering on-the-go communion with bread and teensy wine shots, and while I certainly wanted the wine, the ex-Catholic in me just couldn't do it. Ha!

Paul and I finished strong together! We crossed the finish line holding hands. Paul can run much faster than me, and I told him he should really run the race fast and try to PR. But he didn't get much training in and decided he'd rather take it easy with me in the back of the pack. We finished in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. Pretty far off from last year's Little Rock Half personal record of 2:31, but that's okay. It's been awhile since I've run this far!

After the race, we received our awesome medals! The theme this year was 2019: A Race Odyssey and the medals had a space theme with an alien spinner!

And they glow in the dark! Little Rock is known for having some of the best (and biggest) medals in the country. These half medals are about half the size of the full medals, which are the size of a dinner plate!

Outside the finishing chute, we were handed food and beer. Most races aren't very vegan-friendly with their post-race options, but Little Rock always offers pasta with marinara. They prepare it with added cheese, but I always ask them to go back in the back and prepare me a fresh cup without cheese. I'm so grateful that they're able to do that! All finishers get two Michelob Ultras, which really hit the spot after a long run. Yay for post-race carbs!

Sheridan picked us up at the post-race party after about an hour. And we headed back to her place for showers. I had a Clif Chocolate Peanut Butter Builder Bar in the car for protein. While I don't believe protein supplements are necessary anymore, I do think you need to get some post-race protein. Protein in whole foods form is always best, but since I was away from home, a bar was my best option.

After showers, we headed out for the real post-race reward! PIZZA!! We went to Mellow Mushroom, where I ordered a Jerk Tempeh Pizza with vegan cheese, spinach, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Hit the spot!

Such a great time! Next up, the Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon (the full!). Training for that starts later this week, but I'm taking a few days off running to recover.