Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Vegan Mom Saturday Pop-Ups!

Erica Hughes, better known as The Vegan Mom, has been doing vegan catering and meal prep for a long time. But I only recently discovered her on Instagram after a runner friend mentioned her at my Crosstown Run Crew meetup. That Run Crew, like almost everything in the world, is on pause right now. But The Vegan Mom is still very much at it! She's now doing Saturday pop-ups for awesome vegan meals to go.

I'd been wanting to try her food for some time, but the pick-up location is a good 30-minute drive from my house in Midtown Memphis. Last Saturday, I finally got the time to commit the hour round-trip drive!

She offers fun, indulgent vegan meals, like Philly Cheesesteaks, Un-chicken Sandwiches, Buffalo Cauliflower, and Bang Bang Broccoli. And there's always a lovingly prepared Southern dessert. Since I had quite a bit going on this Saturday, I wanted some things that I could pick up and eat throughout the weekend, so I went with the Vegan Rotel.

Y'all. Growing up in the South, we had rotel dip at every potluck and party. Folks here have cheese dip in their veins, I swear. Arkansas (where I'm from) even has a state-wide cheese dip trail, so tourists can travel the state and sample its finest cheese dips. True story. All this is to say, I KNOW good rotel, and The Vegan Mom's rotel was top notch! Even Paul liked it, and he still claims to not like vegan cheese. By the way, I've often said the one non-vegan food I miss the most is Pancho's Cheese Dip (the official cheese dip of the Mid-South). The Vegan Mom's dip was just as good as Pancho's, and that is high praise in these parts.

And just as cheese dip is my favorite snack food, my fave dessert is the decidedly Southern Banana Puddin. There's just something about creamy pudding, sliced banana, and vanilla cookies that just tastes like magic in your mouth. So I had to grab some of The Vegan Mom's puddin' too!

This was perfect. Creamy, dreamy. Loaded with cookies. Just the way I like it.

If you're local, check out The Vegan Mom's social pages to see her weekly menus, and place your order. The Vegan Mom posts her weekly menu on her Facebook page and Instagram. Orders must be placed and paid for (through Cash App) before 5 pm on Thursdays, and pick-up is on Saturdays between noon-3 pm.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Polenta! Banana Puddin! Randomness!

I recently KonMari'd my cookbooks (in a larger effort to KonMari my entire house). I had hundreds of vegan cookbooks, but I scaled down to just the ones I thought I'd cook from in the future. Honestly, that's still several hundred. But there's room on my cookbook shelves for more books now, and there wasn't before.

To make extra sure I want to keep the ones I think I want to keep, I've decided to slowly work my way through all of them, cooking at least one recipe per book. This will take a few years, but that's okay! I started with Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr, which I hadn't cooked from in a long time. I had polenta in my pantry that needed to be used and a can of whole tomatoes (plus a can of mushrooms). So I made the Sage Polenta with Nana's Marinara & Mushrooms. This was really yummy and felt very fancy. I much prefer fresh mushrooms, but since I'm limiting grocery trips, I find it's nice to have some canned ones in the pantry.

Here's an amazing bowl of Vegan Banana Puddin' from Imagine Vegan Cafe! I had this as dessert on a recent takeout night, and I posted the sandwich I had already. But I forgot to show you this puddin'. Imagine's banana puddin' is out of this world. They use coconut whip, so it's super light and fluffy. If I had to pick a favorite dessert, it would be banana puddin'. And no, there is no "g" in puddin'. By the way, I ate this in the car while I waited for my takeout to be ready. Nothing wrong with dessert first!

Here's a not-pretty-but-tasty Grilled Pesto Veggie Bowl using the last of leftover grilled veggies a few weeks ago. After we got our new grill, I made a LOT of pesto grilled veggies, and I was eating them in all kinds of ways for days. Served atop quinoa, steamed kale, and mung beans. The veggies were eggplant, squash, and zucchini. Pesto was made with basil from my porch.

I also had a lot of smoked tofu a few weeks ago that my dad sent me home with on my last visit to see my parents. I used some of that for Smoked Avocado Tofu Toast. It's hard to improve upon avo toast, but tofu manages to do just that!

And finally, here's another not-so-prettily plated meal! I made Grilled Kielbasa (using Simple Truth meatless kielbasa) with sauteed mushrooms and onions this weekend, served with my favorite summer side dish, Potato Salad.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Donuts! Burritos! Phillys!

My friend Lily at Darling Donuts is taking a couple weeks off from donut-making for a vacay, so I had to get one last donut for awhile! She brought these cherry beauties to French Truck Coffee Wednesday morning, so I made sure to get there bright and early to grab one for my morning snack.

Here's a Breakfast Tofu Burrito I ate on Tuesday for Taco Tuesday! Yea, I know. It's not a taco, but on my Taco Tuesdays, anything in a tortilla counts. This breakfast burrito (which I ate for dinner) is from my favorite cookbook, The No Meat Athlete Cookbook! It has eggy tofu, baked sweet potato, hummus, and sauteed greens, mushroom, and bell pepper.

Speaking of eggy tofu, here's a recent breakfast of Eggy Tofu on Toast with spinach and Vegemite! I used Vegg powder to make the yolk. 

Here's a simple meal and super-healthy meal! I topped a baked potato with some leftover pesto grilled veggies, chickpeas, nooch, spinach, and tahini. Served with a Greek salad with tofu feta. I love simple whole foods-based meals like this.

And finally, here's a delicious and amazing dinner from Imagine Vegan Cafe! Vegan Philly Cheesesteak with Sweet Potato Fries. I try to support Imagine by getting takeout from there weekly!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Margs/Guac + Grill Outs + Coffee Cake

A couple weeks ago, my friend Andy had a birthday, and he wanted to go to dinner at Los Comales in Midtown. I'd never been because their menu doesn't have a single vegan (or even vegetarian) item! I bet they'd make some veggie fajitas if asked, but I don't really trust places that don't even put vegetarian items on the menu. Lucky for me, I love a meal of chips/guac and margaritas for dinner! So that's what I had. Also, they serve this free avocado-jalapeno sauce with the chips/salsa, and it's vegan!

Paul bought us a new grill a few weeks ago, and I've been using the heck out of it! It's a gas grill, so it's super simple to use. I'm used to charcoal, which is a whole long process. A couple weekends ago, we made Grilled Portabella Burgers, Grilled Corn on the Cob, Grilled Asapargus, Grilled Peppers, and Potato Salad.

Later that week, I had some leftover potato salad with a Smoked Tofu BLT (using the last of the tofu my dad smoked for me). 

A couple weekends ago, I had this for a Saturday morning breakfast. Lulu's Strawberry Muffin with Smoked Tofu Bacon and Air-Fried Hash Browns.

And speaking of Lulu's, I had last Friday off work for the holiday weekend. But I still woke up early to get to LuLu's for my morning treat! I got the Coffee Cake, which I enjoyed outside on the patio at Puck Food Hall with some coffee from home.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Weekly Meal Themes!

I LOVE A THEME! I'm one of those people who gets super excited for holidays and chooses outfits to match certain national themed days. Yes, I have a shirt I wear on National Beer Day. And a shirt for National Donut Day. In short, I'm a dork.

On a recent No Meat Athlete podcast, co-host Doug Hay mentioned that he and his family had started weekly themed meals at the beginning of the pandemic, just to make meal planning easier since they were cooking more often at home. I loved the idea, so I stole it! I was already a Type A meal planner, but this has made me even nuttier. We've got Macaroni Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wok Wednesday, Takeout Thursday, Pizza Friday, Grill Out Saturday, and Wild Card Sunday. I'm sticking with Doug's themes for a few weeks, but I'll probably change up the themes eventually.

For my first Macaroni Monday (any kind of pasta is fair game) last week, I made Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Grilled Bell Pepper Marinara. I had some leftover grilled peppers from the weekend and some kale that was wilting, so I added that atop some marinara and pasta. Leftover grilled asparagus on the side.

On Taco Tuesday, I made a recipe from The Low Carb Vegetarian Cookbook (the new book by my friends at The Chubby Vegetarian!). These Chick'n & Cheese Stuffed Avocados were meant to be eaten on their own to make them low-carb, but I'm on a high-carb diet (for real!) so I stuffed these stuffed babies into corn/flour tortillas. So good!! The avos were stuffed with Soy Curls and vegan cheese and baked in the oven. 

For Wok Wednesday, I made a simple Teriyaki Tempeh Stir-fry with tempeh, broccoli, shrooms, and bell pepper over brown rice.

I had been getting my weekly takeout on Thursdays anyway, so Doug's Takeout Thursday was perfect! I went to Stick 'Em — the brick-and-mortar version of the food truck — which just opened on Madison in the Blue Nile location. Same owners, mostly same menu as Blue Nile, but they sadly no longer serve injera bread. But they still have the amazing Tofu Skewers &Veggie Platter! I'll be doing a full post on Stick 'Em soon. I want to try a few new menu items first!

For Pizza Friday, I picked up some mini pizza crusts at Sprouts. They're perfect for an easy personal-sized pizza. For this one, I used Be-Hive seitan pepperoni (made in Nashville) with Daiya mozz and veggies.

On Saturday, I drove to Nashville for Paul's socially distanced family grill-out and fireworks show. We stayed outside and didn't get too close to each other. I wore my mask when I wasn't eating. Paul's brother, Donnie, did the grilling, and he made Sweet Earth Sante Fe Veggie Burgers for Paul and I, plus some veggie skewers. These chips were some that I brought from Sprouts — Burger Fixing flavor (ketchup, mustard, pickle). Yay Grill Out Saturday!

Finally, on Sunday, it was Wild Card day! That means any meal goes! We stayed in a hotel in Nashville so we wouldn't be too close to his family because Covid. I had to drive home on Sunday, but before I left, we stopped by The Be-Hive for carryout and then enjoyed it at Eastland Park. I got the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich (with their house-made soy cheese and onions), and we shared an order of Vegan Bacon Tots with Ranch. Soooooooo good!!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Comfort Foods!

I've been eating lots of foods that qualify as both comforting and healthy lately. Yes, whole foods can also nourish the soul! Take for example this bowl of Butternut Squash Mac & Trees! I used butternut squash soup, thickened with a little cornstarch, for the cheesy base and mixed it into whole wheat pasta with broccoli.

Avocado Toast always warms my heart. I've been trying different toppings every time. This toast is topped with fresh basil, parsley, and cilantro from my porch!

My favorite Friday morning treat — a LuLu's Brekky Sandwich with cold brew from Dr. Bean's (both located in Puck Food Hall) — is made with whole plants and a sourdough potato bun. This one has tofu egg, cashew cheese, and beet bacon. I so look forward to these every Friday! I make the drive downtown to pick it up at Puck Food Hall, and then I eat it in my car on the way back home to start my work day. Proof that you don't have to be working in an office to enjoy a takeout breakfast! You can work it into your work-from-home schedule.

Here's a weird and random healthy meal! I found some dried mung beans in my pantry, so I cooked those and seasoned with curry spices, served with "Parmesan" Squash (from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook) and a baked hasselback Japanese yam with nooch. The squash was subbed for zucchini in the recipe, and it's coated in breadcrumbs (seasoned with nooch and spices) and baked in the oven. 

And finally, here's a less healthy meal. But not too bad! I've been treating myself to a few plant meats every month, and last month, I picked up some Dr. Praegar's BBQ Chick'n Wings. They were really tasty with BBQ sauce and served alongside some slow-simmered collard greens and some of the above-mentioned mac & squash.

Hope everyone has a happy 4th! It'll be different this year without big fireworks shows and large gatherings, but we're still gonna make it fun and grill out!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Review: Myprotein Vegan Protein Bar

It's no secret that I'm a sucker for a vegan protein product. Powders, bars, cookies — if it's got a high percentage of added vegan protein, I'm in.

As I've moved into whole foods, I've tried to forgo the powders and bars. But I've found that my body recovers better after workouts when I have more protein. I don't think protein supplements are necessary for people with sedentary or moderately active lifestyles; whole foods should serve you just fine. But when you're trying to gain muscle and recover quickly between hard workouts, I've found that extra protein works.

A few months ago, a friend gifted me a couple bags of Myvegan protein powders (in chocolate and vanilla), and I've been adding those to my smoothies on occasion (rotating between those and my tried-and-true unflavored Complement Plus protein). When Myprotein reached out to me about reviewing their new Myvegan Mocha Protein Bars, I already knew they'd be great!

And they are! They use their signature vegan protein blend (made from brown rice and pea) for these mocha-flavored bars. I always prefer a chocolate-coated bar over a plain bar — for obvious reasons!

The texture is smooth and candy bar-like, and the coffee flavor blends well with the creamy chocolate. These bars taste like dessert, but they're packed with 15 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbs. They're a little lower-carb than what I shoot for after a run, but they're perfect to enjoy before or after a tough gym session. My gym, Envision Memphis, has been offering daily at-home virtual fitness classes, and I've been getting in 2-3 of those workouts in per week, on top of my daily running schedule. So I've been downing a lot of these bars lately!

Myprotein (and Myvegan) has all kinds of athletic supplements, from whole food fuel blends and BCAAs to B12 and D3 supplements. Their protein powders come in fun flavors like cacao orange, blueberry cinnamon, and turmeric latte!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Coffee Cake! Bowls! Beans & Rice!

Still catching up on some older food pics from the past few weeks. About three weekends ago, I picked up some of LuLu's amazing Coffee Cake to enjoy for a Saturday breakfast. I had this before my run, which was a little decadent for pre-run but worth it!

Still eating Overnight Oats several days a week for breakfast. For this bowl, I stirred in some canned pumpkin that I had leftover from another recipe. It's topped with my homemade soy yogurt and some homemade peanut butter-tahini granola.

Here's a random quick weeknight dinner with brown rice, frozen broccoli, air-fried frozen tofu (that combo makes for some fun texture), tahini sauce, and toasted sesame seeds. Meals like this are my go-to when the groceries get low.

Any time I'm planning a visit to see my parents, I self-isolate for two weeks before the visit. And that even means no takeout! It's also a chance for me to save money and eat a little healthier. During my last quarantine, I was craving Imagine Vegan Cafe's Southern Staple Bowl, so I made a version at home! This has brown rice, 16-bean mix, collards, and garlic aioli (made by mixing Vegenaise with a little fresh garlic), plus pickled okra and cornbread on the side. I made a big batch of my Jalapeno-Corn Cornbread from Cookin' Crunk a couple weeks ago and froze some in individual portions for meals like this.

And finally, here's a film recommendation! A few weeks ago, I heard an interview with The Invisible Vegan's Jasmine C. Leyva on The Whistler Vegan Fest Podcast. The Invisible Vegan sounded awesome, so I watched it later that night on Amazon Prime. The film looks at plant-based eating’s historic roots in Black culture, the intersectionality of animal liberation and Black liberation, environmental racism around factory farming, and so much more. Check it out on Amazon Prime!

Monday, June 29, 2020

16 Year Anniversary Celebration!

Paul and I celebrated 16 years together this weekend! Our actual anniversary was on Sunday, June 28, but Saturday is a better day for celebrating (and Paul had to head to Nashville Sunday afternoon). We started our celebration with a champagne toast and some LuLu's Roman Pizza (focaccia with beet bacon, spinach, and onion).

By the way, I'm terrible at checking the vegan-ness of wines when I'm at the store, and this Martini & Rossi Asti is apparently fined with non-vegan by-products. So I'm not recommending it! I often don't think to check Barnivore until the wine is all gone. I'm not super-strict with vegan wines, but I don't want people to see it here and think it's vegan-friendly. I'll just look for a different sparkling wine next time (recommendations welcome!).

Neither of us has been to dinner at an actual restaurant since the COVID pandemic began, but everything has opened back up to 50% capacity here — despite an uptick in COVID cases. Sigh. So we figured we'd take our chances, and go on a real date. We both love Bhan Thai, so we enjoyed a nice dinner on their patio.

Outdoor gatherings are lower on the risk scale, and Bhan Thai was really great at distancing accommodations. Tables were well-spaced. Masks were required until you sit down. Staff wears masks at all times. It felt pretty darn safe! We both ordered the best dish on their menu — Pad See Ew with Tofu! I rarely go to a Thai place without ordering Pad See Ew, and Bhan Thai's is the best I've ever had.

Paul and I met at Newby's — a college bar near the University of Memphis — way back in 2004 over a game of pool. The way people used to meet back in the old days. It's so funny to me that people meet for dates on the internet now! We've made it an annual tradition to always close out anniversary date night with a game of pool at Newby's. They're open! I was definitely nervous about visiting a bar in the COVID era, but it had to be done.

We wore masks until we sat down, but we had to remove them to drink our beer. I'd hoped we could spend the evening on their patio, but it was packed when we arrived.  Fortunately, the tables inside were well-spaced to allow for distancing. Paul mentioned to the door guy that it was our anniversary, and the guy apparently told the band — the Memphis All-Stars — about it. So the band dedicated a song to us! Quite the surprise and very cool.

We enjoyed a couple drinks and played our annual pool game. I kind of hate pool, because I'm terrible at it, so this is typically the only game I play all year. We always take a shot like this one, where we're holding the numbered balls to represent the anniversary years. 

I probably won't be back in a bar for awhile. I know the bars are doing their best to keep things clean and safe, but the nature of drinking doesn't mesh with the nature of mask-wearing or distancing. So it makes me nervous! I'm down for drinking on a patio any time, but indoors can be a little scary in these crazy times.  By the way, I am NOT recommending anyone go out and risk catching anything! This was a special occasion, and we won't be doing this often. I work from home, and the only person I'm around on a regular basis is Paul. 

The next morning — Sunday — we slept in and enjoyed pancakes and vegan sausage. I used this never-fail recipe for Perfect Pancakes and fried up some Beyond Sausage Patties. We served these with Aperol Spritz Mimosas (OJ, Prosecco, Aperol).

Another great anniversary celebration! Oh, and I forgot to mention that Paul gifted me a lovely amethyst ring and some cubic zirconia earrings. We weren't supposed to do gifts, but he always likes to surprise me! Paul is quite the romantic, which is funny because I am so not romantic at all. He's an Aries, and I'm a Libra, so we're pretty much polar opposites in many ways. Like they say, opposites attract! 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Pesto! Beans & Cornbread! Sticky Rice!

My basil plant is poppin', y'all. I'm not great at gardening, but since I'm working from home, I've been slightly better at remembering to water things. My basil plant is doing great, and I've made several batches of pesto, including a batch for this Pesto Pasta one night. For my pesto, I combine a couple handfuls of basil, couple handfuls of spinach, 1/4 cup walnuts, 2 Tbsp. roasted almonds, 1/4 cup nooch, 2 cloves garlic, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, salt/pepper, and about 1/4-1/2 cup water.

At the start of the pandemic, I bought a lot of dry beans to stash. You know, just in case the shit really hit the fan. So far, that hasn't happened, so I'm just gonna eat these beans. This was a 16-Bean Soup mix that I got at Target. I cooked these in the Instant Pot with onion, broth, and some Liquid Smoke for that ham flavor you typically get in 16-bean soup. On the side, I made my Jalapeno-Corn Cornbread from Cookin' Crunk (minus the pickled jalapenos because I didn't have any).

I'm slowly working my way through every recipe in the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. I haven't made many of the desserts yet, so I'm digging into that chapter now. I made this Mango Sticky Rice with coconut milk, mango, and brown rice, and it was really yummy. And healthy!

Here's a pre-long run breakfast of Bagels with Hummuses! Two kinds — roasted red pepper and original. I think I had just enough of one hummus left for one bagel half, and then I had to open a new one.

And finally, here's an awesome Breakfast Sandwich with the last of my Just Egg folded eggs and some Beyond Meat sausage, plus Daiya and spinach (for good measure).