Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day for Me!

My partner Paul spends his weeks in Nashville, where he works, so when Valentine's Day falls on a week day, I'm on my own. And I am totally fine with that. We're celebrating together this weekend, so we'll still have our V-Day fun. But I spent today in self-care mode.

This morning, I woke up and headed out for a 3-mile run on a lovely 50-degree morning (that's cold to me typically, but it's great running weather). Then I had this Strawberry Dark Chocolate Chip Smoothie. It has banana, strawberries, and walnuts. And then I threw in a few squares of bourbon-aged dark chocolate (that my dad got me for Valentine's Day) and pulsed in the Vitamix until it formed little chips.

I usually eat at work, but since I'm taking a self-care day, I decided to walk home (I live VERY close to work) and take the full lunch hour. I had a Giant Salad with Heart-Shaped Beets! I cut my pre-cooked Love Beets into little hearts. The salad also has carrot, red cabbage, cucumber, bell pepper, craisins, almonds, pumpkin, and sesame seeds, plus a low-oil balsamic-dijon dressing that I threw together.

Our plant-based cafe at work (I work at Crosstown Arts) had Vegan Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes today! A perfect afternoon treat with a cup of Earl Grey tea while I wrapped up a few tasks at work. This was a very large cupcake, and I ate the whole thing.

After work, I stopped by Hollywood Feed for Valentine's for the pets! I got the cats some special canned food by B.F.F. that was called Valentines Dinner in Gravy! WHAT?! They loved it. Maynard got a Carob Cake with Carob Frosting. 

For dinner, I made myself a nice pasta meal using a recipe I found in the No Meat Athlete Valentine's-themed member newsletter — Easy Avocado Pesto Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes with a side of Garlic Bread. Plus, a nice glass of homemade wine made by my dad.

The pasta (I used Explore Cuisine mung bean & edamame fettucine) is coated in an avocado-walnut-basil pesto and tossed with sundried tomatoes. Very good! And oil-free!

What a perfect day of meals – a lot of healthy stuff and a super-amazing cupcake treat. After dinner, I had a little self-care night at home with yoga for the heart chakra, a bath with a giant unicorn bath bomb (a gift from my mom) that I've been saving for a special occasion, a facial steam and mask, and some reading time with NPR host Peter Sagal's new book, The Incomplete Guide to Running. 

Hope y'all had great Valentine's Day too! I'll check back in after my date night with Paul.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Bread Bowls, Bean Bowls, and So Many Bowls of Oats

Today's random meal round-up is brought to you by bowls — those amazing vessels that can instantly turn any meal into comfort food!

Bowls made from dinnerware material are great and all, but you know what's better? Bowls you can eat. Like this Bread Bowl with Potato Corn Chowder from Imagine Vegan Cafe. 

Our friend Don (of Lulu's Baked) created some bread bowls for Imagine to use for last week's soup special. Imagine owner Kristie texted me that morning to let me know I should not miss the bread bowl special, so I made sure to dine there after yoga class. The bread was amazing. The soup was delicious on a cold, rainy night. Yes, I ate the whole thing.

Don't let anyone tell you that carbs are bad for you. Carbs are fuel. Sure, white bread isn't the most nutritious bread, but it's okay sometimes.

As I've mentioned here before, my favorite go-to meal when I'm in a hurry and have nothing prepared is a Bean/Grain/Green Bowl like this one — white beans, brown rice, steamed kale and broccoli, kraut, garlic tahini sauce.

I've been switching a few of my weekday breakfast smoothies out for oatmeal bowls lately. Like this one with almond butter, blueberry, banana, and flax.

And this one with strawberry, banana, blueberry, walnuts, and flax.

I've learned that Overnight Oats work best on mornings when I have gym classes and get home later than I do when I run. It's hard to eat a bowl of hot oats quickly, but you can scarf down cold oats. I've been making mine the night before with chia seed, maple, and almond milk. And then I top with fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds in the morning. Hey look, it's a jar! Not a bowl!

Here's something else not in a bowl — a pre-race (before the Crosstown 10K) slice of Sprouted Grain Toast with Peanut Butter, Blueberries, and Banana.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ramen & Cauliflower & Weird Meals

This random meal round-up is brought to you by weird cravings, terrible lighting, and rushed lunches. You're welcome. :-)

I'll start with this delicious bowl of Vegetable Lemongrass Ramen at Atomic Tiki, a tiki bar in my neighborhood. They used to have more vegan options on the menu, but they've changed the menu again. There are only a couple of vegan items left, including this delicious bowl (which you have to order sans egg to be vegan). But I've been told by the owner, who is awesome, that they can pretty much make anything vegan by subbing out tofu for meat.

Sweet score at Target! Sweet Earth Cauliflower Mac! This frozen meal combines vegan cheese sauce with pasta and cauliflower. It's really good. Made a great desk lunch with a side salad.

Terribly lit photo of a really tasty Black Bean & Sweet Potato Quesadilla on a sprouted grain wrap, topped with salsa, served with a side of roasted veggies (cabbage, onion, carrot, potato, squash).

Rushed photo (because I was hangry) of a Smoked Tofu Veggie Wrap with Air-fried Kale Chips. My dad got a smoker, and now he's keeping me stocked in smoked tofu. YES! I had some of that smoked tofu here in a whole wheat wrap with cucumber, carrot, green olive, lettuce, and hummus. 

Another desk lunch! I made these Red Bean & Brown Rice Burgers (using the No Meat Athlete veggie burger formula) a couple weeks ago and froze the leftovers. Had one last week with leftover roasted veggies. 

And finally — here's a plate that satisfied all my weird cravings for spicy, salty, and fried. I made my dad's Air-fried Buffalo Cauliflower (the best!) with cashew ranch and served with Air-fried French Fries (the Alexia kind from a bag) with BBQ sauce and Steamed Kale. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Lulu's Baked School Lunch Brunch!

Our friends Don and Kenzie hosted another Lulu's brunch at Fuel Cafe this weekend! They're hosting these amazing pop-up brunches several times a month now!

I had an 8K trail race on Sunday at 2 pm, so I almost skipped it for fear that I'd eat too much and feel gross on my run. But after Don posted the theme/menu, I knew I HAD to be there. They went with a school lunch theme! Square breakfast pizzas (like the shape of the school pizza that fit onto the square lunch tray) and a regional cinnamon roll & chili bowl.

Of course, I got the Breakfast Pizza. Because pizza. Don has access to an amazing pizza oven at Fuel, so I knew this would be a winner. Topped with cashew cheese, tofu scramble, and blackeyed pea sausage. Served with an arugula salad and apple slices. Get it? Like school! Pizza served with salad and fruit.

The pizza was A-MAZING, and it worked wonders as race fuel later in the day. I wasn't too stuffed, and I had lots of energy. Yay carbs! As for arugula, I'm not a fan. But I ate it all because I'm a plate cleaner, and I know it's good for me.

Jennifer ordered the Cinnamon Rolls with Chili, which is something Kenzie ate in school growing up in Missouri. It must be a Missouri thing because I've never heard of this dish! But I was very intrigued and totally would have ordered this if pizza wasn't an option. I love savory and sweet together.

By the way, Jennifer — who hails from Michigan and also hadn't heard of this — immediately pulled the rolls out of the chili and wiped them off, saving them for dessert. Ha! Our friend Anthony ordered this too, and he ate it the right way, taking a bite of cinnamon roll with a bite of chili each time. He said it was delicious.

Susan ordered The Big Brekky. Don typically offers something more standard like this. The dish changes each time, but it usually include tofu scramble and potatoes. This time he added vegan cheese and shiitake toast.

The next Lulu's pop-up brunch is next Sunday at Fuel, beginning at 11 am. If you're local, check it out!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

New ALWAYS menu at Crosstown Arts!

I work at Crosstown Arts, a contemporary arts center located inside a massive former Sears headquarters that's been revitalized as Crosstown Concourse into a mixed-use space with arts, education, healthcare, restaurants, retail, and residential apartments. At Crosstown Arts, we host art exhibitions, musical performances, a full-scale artist residency program, youth art workshops, and more. We also have a cocktail bar and a plant-based cafe.

The cafe is based on the concept of TODAY and ALWAYS. We have a TODAY menu of daily specials that change out often, and we have an ALWAYS menu of standards that are always available (at least for several months). But that ALWAYS menu will change with the seasons, and we just released a new version of that menu.

I haven't made it through the full menu yet, but I wanted to share a few of the new dishes. My fave so far is this Grilled Zucchini Squash Sandwich with green tomato chow chow and vegan herb aioli on house-made bread (all of our breads and pastries are baked fresh by our baker, Ali).

I know what you're thinking — a vegetable sandwich can be such a cop-out. But not THIS vegetable sandwich. Chef Raymond must season this with gold because it is A-MAZING. The chow chow makes it tangy and slightly spicy. The veggies are grilled to perfection. I subbed vegan cheese for the Swiss that typically comes on the sandwich, and it was so good.

The new menu also features Chef Raymond's Three-Bean Hummus, served with fresh veggies and warm pita. Best hummus ever.

The Tempeh Chili & Buffalo Cauliflower is to die for. The hearty chili is topped with crispy, spicy cauliflower and vegan cheese toast! The cafe does serve some dairy, but this one is vegan by default. That said, they're happy to sub vegan cheese for any dish that has dairy cheese.

And finally, here's the Tofu & Grits — another fave new dish! Chunks of marinated, baked tofu topped with wilted spinach and sauteed peppers and onions over creamy corn grits. And it's all brought together with redeye gravy. Very Southern! Very good!

There's also a new Fried Oyster Mushroom Faux Boy on the menu that I can't wait to try and Raymond's Caribbean Pepper Pot Soup with acorn squash and sweet potatoes. Check out the full ALWAYS menu here, and see daily specials on the Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Lunar New Year Eats

I LOVE a holiday. ANY HOLIDAY! Especially if it involves special foods. Yesterday, I celebrated the Year of the Pig with good luck foods.

For dinner, I whipped up a simple stir-fry with Korean rice cakes (for prosperity!), broccoli, squash, and mushrooms. I used gochujang, ginger, and soy sauce to season. I love, love, love these chewy little rice cakes, but I so often forget to cook with them. I keep a bag in my deep freezer at all times.

On the side, I steamed some Nasoya Thai-Basil Vegetable Dumplings (for success!). These pre-made dumplings are vegan and super-convenient. I also keep these stashed in the deep freezer.

I read that you're also supposed to eat oranges (for good health!) on the Lunar New Year. So my dessert was a naval orange and some orange dark chocolate from Wei Joyful (this amazing chocolate was in my February Goddess Provisions box). Btw, Maynard totally thought this orange was a ball! Silly dog. He was pretty disappointed when I ate it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Whole Foods & Bread Foods

This post of random meals is a pretty accurate representation of how I'm eating these days — plenty of healthy, whole foods with some decadent breads and treats mixed in. We'll start with this image of a very healthy meal that I made last week — Sauteed Swiss Chard & Chickpeas Over Creamy Grits.

Technically, I used plain ole cornmeal instead of grits because that's what I had. But the only difference is how finely the grain is milled. Cornmeal makes for lovely grits replacement. The Swiss . chard and chickpeas were sauteed with onion, garlic, salt and pepper, and a little bit lemon juice. Simple and delicious.

On Friday night, my friend Megan came over to celebrate the pagan holiday of Imbolc — the midway point between winter and spring. Traditionally, seeded foods were eaten as a symbol of the Earth's fertility. So we made seeded bread! It was a fun activity to do together. We took turns mixing (but she pretty much handled the kneading. I hate kneading!). Very good bread!

The next morning, I stopped by the Lulu's Baked booth at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market for a Morning Bun (and not pictured because I ate it, Snickerdoorle!). Don's vegan morning buns are like a cross between a cinnamon roll and a croissant.

Here's a bowl of Oats with Nectarines & Blueberries that I had for breakfast yesterday. I've had smoothies for breakfast pretty much daily since October, and I'm getting a little bored with it. So I'll be doing oats for awhile (with smoothies mixed in when I'm pressed for time).

And finally, here's a Baked Potato with Chili (made with Beyond beef and beans) & Nooch. Paul and I had this for dinner last night. I put the potatoes in the Crock Pot and let them bake all day. Crock Pot potatoes are the best! Just wrap with foil and put them in the Crock Pot on low for 8 hours.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Vegan Superbowl at RP Tracks

I love Superbowl snacks, and most years, we stay home and eat homemade vegan buffalo wings, chips and dip, and other festive finger foods. But we don't have cable at home, and finding a way to stream the game online is always a hassle. So this year, we opted to watch the Superbowl at RP Tracks — a college sports bar by the University of Memphis. And our friend Misti joined us!

We grabbed a table right by the biggest TV and ordered a couple 22-ounce beers to get started. Paul and I got there early to save the table, but we wanted to wait until game time to order food. So we got an appetizer of Buffalo Tofu to hold us over. These crispy strips are coated in buffalo sauce. They're really good!

That satisfied us over until the game started, but I was pretty hungry by then. Paul and I always split an order of BBQ Tofu Nachos when we go to Tracks. So that's what we did! Here's a terrible photo taken after I'd dug in. As you can see, we brought our own homemade guac because Tracks doesn't serve guac anymore (they used to!).

We get our chips on the side and the toppings — crispy BBQ tofu, black beans, lettuce, tomato, and jalapeno are served in a separate pan. It doesn't make for a very pretty meal that way, but it's much easier to eat. Here's what the nachos look like served as is (this is from an old picture I'd taken before I discovered the "chips on the side" pro tip).

The game itself (and the halftime show) was probably the most boring Superbowl of all time. But at least the food was delicious!