Monday, March 27, 2017

Giveaway: Veganize It

Robin Robertson has another new book out, y'all. Seriously, how does she do it? If you're not familiar with Robin's name, you'll surely recognize the names of one of her 20 or so vegan cookbooks. You probably even have a few on your cookbook shelf. There's Vegan Planet, Vegan Without Borders, Quick-Fix Vegan, and Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker to name a few. Now she has a new book — Veganize It — and I think it may be her best work yet!

Veganize It features easy DIY recipes for vegan staples and also recipes that use those staples to mimic beloved classics we all grew up eating in our omnivore past lives. For example, you'll find recipes for homemade coconut milk or oat milk, aquafaba butter, and smoky vegan queso. You'll also see recipes for homemade plant meats, like seitan roast or tempeh bacon.

But then there are other recipes in the book that use those homemade ingredients — Piccata Meatballs with Penne and Asparagus (using homemade vegan butter and homemade meat-free meatballs), Devilish Ham Salad (made with homemade vegan ham and homemade mayo), or Summer Rolls with Fish-Free Nuoc Cham (using, you guessed it, homemade fish-free fish sauce). Of course, Robin makes it simple for those who'd rather not spend extra time making staples; she also suggests store-bought items that can be used in their place.

I love the variety of meals included in this book. The recipes run the global gamut, and some feature veggies as the center of the dish (like Jumpin' Jackfruit Chili) while others are focused on vegan protein (like Seitan Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce). I had a hard time choosing what to try first because everything looks so amazing (the full-color pics are gorgeously styled). But then I came across Breakfast Nachos, and well, my choice was clear. Because nachos. For breakfast.

Tortilla chips are topped with a tofu scramble-black bean mixture that's seasoned with onion, garlic, and cumin. Then that's topped with Robin's homemade Smoky Vegan Queso, a spicy dip with a nooch-cornstarch base. This dip is so good, and I'm glad I've got leftovers for eating on its own. It's like the classic nooch sauce that all vegans made in the early 2000s, except there's no flour, so it's creamy without that gravy-like consistency. The cornstarch thickens and gives it a silky smooth texture.

That's all topped with fresh tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, and avocado. Delicious! I air-fried some corn tortillas to make my chips, so they were pretty much fat-free. Nothing against fat, but I love it when chips are basically health food. One thing to note: I actually didn't eat these for breakfast. I made them for a hearty brinner last night! But they'd be perfect in the morning too.

The publisher has graciously offered to let me give a copy of Veganize It away to one lucky reader (U.S. residents only, please -- their rules!). So just leave a comment on this post letting me know what meal you love to veganize. Be sure and leave an email address (unless you're sure I already know how to contact you through a blog or Facebook or something). I'll randomly select a winner on Friday (March 31st) morning at 9 a.m. CST.

Also, the publisher has given me permission to share the Breakfast Nachos and Smoky Vegan Queso recipes! Here ya go!

Text excerpted from VEGANIZE IT! © 2017 by Robin Robertson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Photo by William and Susan Brinson.
Nachos for breakfast is a fun way to start the day. Make the queso sauce in advance and the nachos will come together quickly.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, chopped
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and diced
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ cups cooked or 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
¼ cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 recipe Smoky Queso Sauce (below), kept warm
1 (13-ounce) bag restaurant-style tortilla chips

1 Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and scallions and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the tofu and salt, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in the nutritional yeast, cumin, and turmeric. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Stir in the beans, cover, and keep warm.
2 In a medium bowl, combine the tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. Season with salt to taste and mix well. Gently stir in the avocado.
3 To assemble, spoon a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of a large plate. Place half of the chips on top of the sauce. Spoon half of the sauce on top of the chips, followed by half of the tofu and beans, and then half of the salsa. Top with the remaining chips and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, garnished with additional cilantro, if using.
Text excerpted from VEGANIZE IT! © 2017 by Robin Robertson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
This easy-cheesy sauce is great for nachos or folded into cooked pasta for a zesty mac and cheese. If chopped pimientos are unavailable, you can substitute 3 tablespoons chopped roasted red bell pepper.
1 (2-ounce) jar chopped pimientos, drained
1 teaspoon canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 ½ cups plain unsweetened almond milk or water

1 Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2 Transfer to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Use as desired.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Peachy Green Protein Ice Cream + Oats!

I'm sad to say that my very favorite podcast — Rise & Resist — is no more. Co-hosts/body-posi fitness warriors/badasses Holly and Lacy said they're just too busy to make recording work right now. Holly runs New Ethic (a plant-based, body-positive gym in Oakland), and she runs her FitQuick protein waffle business, and Lacy is in the process of opening Liberation Barbell, her very own body-posi gym in Portland. They're busy ladies, and I totally understand. But I'm still bummed. Rise & Resist taught me so much about body positivity and body image, and I really believe it's made me a better, more well-informed person. Side note: Lacy started a new podcast on her own called Femmes to the Front, and it's super rad.

I'll miss the "one rep snax" segment the most — that section at the end when Holly and Lacy would discuss their favorite food of the moment. I got a ton of meal and snack ideas from that segment, but one of the best was Lacy's banana ice cream/warm oats combo (she also included this on her Reset & Restore plan that I did in January). You serve cold, homemade banana soft serve atop warm, creamy oats, and it is just magical. Something about that warm/hot combo just totally does it for me.

This weekend, I came up with a quick and easy recipe for a ice cream/oats bowl using some Sari Foods Wheatgrass Powder that Sari Foods sent me to review. 

This alkalizing superfood powder is totally organic, and it's a good source of fiber, chlorophyll, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins A, E, and B12, calcium, selenium, and iron. So it's pretty much a powerhouse. It's also known to give you quite an energy boost (how could it not with all those vitamins and minerals?). You can mix this powder with water and shoot it if you want, but greens powder doesn't really taste that great. I think it's much tastier mixed into a smoothie or banana ice cream. 

This Peachy Green Protein Ice Cream and Oats sneaks the wheatgrass (and some protein) into banana-peach soft serve, which is served alongside hot, agave-sweetened oats. So good!

I like to add protein powder to my banana soft serve for a post-run recovery treat, but you can always leave that out if you're looking for more of a snack than a meal.

Here's my recipe for Peachy Green Protein Ice Cream and Oats!

Peachy Green Protein Ice Cream + Oats
Yields 1 serving

For the oats:
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup quick-cooking steel cut oats
1 Tbsp. agave

For the ice cream:
1 frozen banana, cut into chunks
1/2 cup frozen peaches
1/4 cup almond milk
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
1 Tbsp. Sari Foods Wheatgrass Powder

Bring the 3/4 cup water to boil in a small saucepan. Add the oats. Reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered, stirring regularly, for 5 to 7 minutes or until oats have thickened and softened. Add the agave and stir to combine.

While the oats are cooking, add the frozen banana, frozen peaches, and almond milk to a food processor. Process until completely smooth, like the texture of soft serve ice cream. You'll have to stop several times to scrape down the sides of the processor, and at first, it'll seem like the mixture will never get smooth. But it will! Patience.

Once the ice cream is smooth, add the protein powder and wheatgrass powder. Process to combine. 

To serve, spoon the oats into one half of a bowl and the ice cream into the other. Eat!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mama Gaia Opens in Crosstown!

This is a post about a new vegetarian restaurant. And I'll get to that. But first, some context.

I live and work in Crosstown — a Midtown Memphis neighborhood that's centered around a million-square-foot former Sears headquarters that was erected in the late 1920s. It's a beautiful, old, art-deco-style building that served as the central hub of this neighborhood for decades. But the building was shuttered in the late 1990s, and it sat vacant for years. In fact, it was still a blighted, old hulk of a building when I bought my house in the Evergreen Historic District, just blocks away from the building's shadow, in 2012. Here I am at a festival earlier this year with the Crosstown building in the background. This gives you an idea of just how massive it is! It takes up an entire city block.

For the past few years, there's a been this awesome grassroots movement to revitalize and repurpose the building. A massive construction project has been underway for over a year now, and soon, the building will re-open as Crosstown Concourse and house all sorts of retail, restaurants, a craft brewery, art facilities, medical offices and clinics, education organizations, a high school, and lots of residential apartments. My office at Crosstown Arts will relocate there, and we'll have galleries, a film screening room, music spaces, an artist residency program, a shared art-making lab, a plant-based cafe, and eventually, a performing arts theater. It's all very exciting!

Even though some apartment residents have been living on-site on the completed floors since January, so much of the building is still a construction zone. Yet new life is happening! This weekend, the first restaurant in the building — Mama Gaia — will open to the public. And guess what? It's a vegetarian restaurant, and everything (EVERY. SINGLE. THING.) is organic! I was invited to Mama Gaia several times this week to sample a few dishes.

On Tuesday, a co-worker and I stopped by, and I ordered the Cena Bowl — quinoa, sauteed mushrooms, and asparagus. The mushrooms were coated in a tomato-y, white wine sauce and were bursting with flavor. 

Nicole ordered the Asia Salad with sesame-crusted tofu and bell peppers. 

I also sampled some of the Oogave agave-sweetened sodas. These are low-calorie and all-natural.

I was back on Wednesday for a Crosstown Arts staff meeting. I got the Asia Pita with sesame-crusted tofu, Asian slaw, red bell pepper, and Mama Gaia sauce. Wow! That tofu was AMAZING. It's baked and every inch is coated in crispy sesame seeds. 

On the side, I had some Hand-Cut Baked Fries, served with organic ketchup. Nothing at Mama Gaia is fried, so you can feel pretty good about whatever you eat.

Mama Gaia specializes in pita sandwiches, which are stuffed with veggies, quinoa, tofu, hummus, and various sauces. But they also offer those same pitas as bowls and salads, both of which make them gluten-free. It's a vegetarian restaurant, so they do serve some cheese. But vegan items are clearly marked with a V, and many items can easily be made vegan. Gluten-free items are marked with a GF. They also indicate which items contain nuts with an N.

Oh, and there are desserts! Healthy ones! On Wednesday, they let us sample the Vegan Brownie Bites. These are vegan and sweetened with dates. They also have a hint of coconut, and they boast a rich cocoa flavor.

Owner Philipp snuck me a Raw Vegan Carrot Cake Ball as well! These were like little energy balls made with dates, nuts, and carrots and taste exactly like carrot cake. The finished product is coated in coconut flakes, but either way, these were delicious.

On Thursday night, I attended a VIP party at Mama Gaia, and they had small samples of menu items available. So much goodness!


Mama Gaia officially opens at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 25th! And then they'll be open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., with plans to open earlier for breakfast in the near future.

I'm so excited to have Mama Gaia in the neighborhood. My office won't be moving into the building until later this year, but I can't wait to just pop downstairs for a quick lunch pita. Still yet, it's literally across the street from my house and current office, so those quick lunches are still possible now. 

More vegan-friendly eateries will be opening in Crosstown Concourse very soon, and I'll be sure to update you as they do!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dave's Bagels!

If you're a non-local reader, I'll just go ahead and apologize because tonight's post and tomorrow's post are dedicated to some Memphis stuff. But y'all — I've got a bagel hook-up, and I need to spread the word.

Meet Dave. He makes bagels.

Dave moved to Memphis from Portland less than a year ago, and he'd previously dabbled in the bagel-making business. After moving here he quickly realized that Memphis was seriously lacking the bagel department. There are a few decent bagel shops out east, I hear. But Midtown was a bagel desert. Not anymore. By the way, you can read all about Dave in my friend Susan's Memphis Flyer blog post.

Dave started selling his bagels at the now-closed Curb Market in Cooper-Young, and even though I'd heard he was there, I never made it over there to try them. But anyway, that Curb Market closed because it's moving into Crosstown Concourse (the same building that will house my office when construction is complete! Yay for me!). And Dave will be slinging bagels at the new Curb! But until then, he's taking orders online from his Dave's Bagels page and selling them out of a commercial kitchen on Madison (next to the Trolley Stop Market).

I finally placed an order several weeks ago, and I've since become a bagel addict. I've gone through nearly a dozen and a half bagels in, hmmmm, less than a month? Yea, I have a problem. But they're so good! My fave is probably the Apple Cinnamon because the top is coated in cinnamon sugar.

And the insides are stuffed with bits of real apple! These are amazing slathered in nut butter.

While we're on the subject of sweet bagels, the Cinnamon Raisin are also stellar. I had one this morning with Daiya vegan cream cheese. They're just lightly sweet and oh-so cinnamony.

Deep down though, I'm a savory kinda girl. And even though the Apple Cinnamon are my fave (because they're basically dessert for breakfast), I'm probably equally in love with the Everything Bagels. I've used these as sandwich bread, enjoyed with hummus, and of course, with garlic & chive cream cheese. How cute are these little Go Veggie cream cheese tubs?

You can also get savory bagels with just one or two toppings — like Onion Bagels, Poppyseed Bagels, Garlic Bagels, or Sesame Seed Bagels. The sesame ones can be used with sweet or savory toppings! Here I had some Soom Chocolate Sesame Spread on a Sesame Bagel with Fresh Berries!

Here's an Garlic Bagel before I slathered it with hummus!

The Plain Bagels are the perfect stand-ins for sandwich bread. I got some Buffalo Soy Chicken Salad from Whole Foods and made this yummy sandwich!

And I showed this pic to you a couple days ago, but it was so delicious that I'm showing you again. Here's a Vegan Egg, Seitan Bacon, & Cheddar Sandwich on a Plain Bagel!

Local folks, you can place orders with Dave by sending him a Facebook message through his Facebook page. He takes orders throughout the week, and then you pick them up between 4 and 7 on Friday afternoons. Minimum order is six, but I recommend buying them by the dozen because you'll need them. Trust me. And they freeze wonderfully. You can also find his bagels served in local restaurants, like the Bayou Bar & Grill, Otherlands (they have vegan cream cheese!), and Strano.

When Curb Market opens in Crosstown Concourse later this year, you'll also find Dave's Bagels there!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Quinoa Puffs!

Do y'all remember that "Afro Puffs" song by Lady of Rage from 1994? She was all "I rock rough and stuff and with my afro puffs," and Snoop Dogg would chime in with "Rock on with your bad self." Well, my best friend Sheridan and I loved that song, except we thought the lyric was "I get rough and tough with my afro puffs." I didn't realize what she was actually saying until a few minutes ago when I googled the lyrics to be sure.

So I've had the wrong lyric in my head for years. And when Bake and Destroy blogger bud/I Heart Keenwah marketing whiz Natalie Slater shipped me some samples of I Heart Keenwah Chocolate Puffs, that song got stuck in my head again. Only now it's "I get rough and tough with my quinoa puffs!" And of course, Snoop is still there — in my head — telling me to rock on with my quinoa-loving self.

Have y'all tried these yet? OMG! They're like a healthy vegan version of malted milk balls. The outsides are coated in this thick, dark chocolate that's accented with Himalayan pink salt.

And the insides are all light and airy and crunchy. I have no idea how they get those teensy quinoa grains to poof up into a giant, crunchy ball. Magic? Probably. But whoever discovered this is a genius.

They also make some Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter ones that I MUST get my grubby little hands on. There are savory ones too — Sea Salt Truffle, Sweet Chili, and Herbs de Provence.

These chocolate puffs are perfect snacks on their own. But they're also great for adding into a popcorn snack mix! Last weekend, when Susan and I went to see Get Out in the theater, I snuck in some homemade, oil-popped popcorn mixed with I Heart Keenwah Chocolate Puffs, Go Max Go Snap! crisped rice chocolate squares, Swedish Fish, and Sour Patch Kids. YUM!

Alright, I'm gonna go post up in my PJs in bed and stuff my face with chocolate puffs! See ya!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ostara Eats!

Today is the first day of spring! Yay!!!!!! I cannot tell you how excited this makes me. I hate everything about winter. HATE IT. But I love spring and summer, and I can't wait for the day when I can seriously put all of my coats, jackets, hoodies, and sweaters on a long hiatus. I'm ready for flip-flops and shorts and tank tops!

It was 80 degrees here in Memphis today, so it feels like we're already almost to summer. Hoping for no more cold snaps! Ostara is the traditional pagan celebration of the spring equinox, and it's long been associated with eggs since eggs represent fertility (that's why the Christian Easter co-opted eggs and other fertility elements, like bunnies). But you know, as a vegan, I don't eat eggs. But I can still celebrate the Earth's fertility with vegan eggs! I made it a point to eat cruelty-free, eggy dishes all day.

Breakfast was a Bagel Sandwich with Vegan Egg, Seitan Bacon, Vegan Cheddar, & Spinach on a locally made bagel from Dave's Bagels (more on Dave's in a post later this week).

I used Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg here (just one serving, which is two tablespoons of the powder). My parents gave me an immersion blender for an early Easter gift, so I used that to whip the Vegan Egg. Before, I always used my Vitamix, which worked great, but it meant more clean-up and you tend to lose a little egg as it sticks to the side of the blender. A commenter suggested an immersion blender in my last Vegan Egg post (so thanks, commenter!!). The bacon is Upton's, and the cheese is Daiya.

That hearty breakfast kept me satisfied until lunch, when I went home from work and had this quick meal of a Sweet Earth Get Cultured! Breakfast Burrito and chips. These are a new line of Sweet Earth burritos, and they're the best. This one had a Korean flair with tofu scramble, fermented cabbage and peppers, and sesame.

For dinner, I chose a few dishes from the Easter chapter in The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook, since the secular elements of Easter and the traditional themes around Ostara are very similar. I'll revisit the Easter chapter for that holiday as well though! But for this one, I chose to make the Cucumber Cups with Picnic Tofu Salad because vegan egg salad!

This is a pretty basic tofu egg salad with dill pickle, fresh dill, vegan mayo, and carrot. I stuffed it into English cucumber cups as the recipe suggested. But I also had some on whole wheat toast because this girl needs bread.

On the side, I had the Cream of Carrot Soup from The Superfun Times. This super-simple, creamy soup is made with carrots, garlic, onion, coconut milk, and vegetable broth. It's very light, so you can eat a ton of it! I typically prefer chunky soups over creamy ones, but a creamy soup just seems right this time of year.

For dessert, I made the Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Scones from The Superfun Times. These taste exactly how I imagine spring would taste if spring were a food. Light and fruity with crisp hints of lemon and a sweet sugar glaze. Lovely with a glass of chilled white wine on this warm afternoon.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

St. Patty's Day Eats!

I totally nerd out for holidays (and if you're a regular blog reader, you probably already know that!), and St. Patrick's Day is no exception. I wear green. I eat green foods and/or Irish-inspired meals. I start the day with liquor-spiked coffee. I go to bars. I do pub runs. I fully embrace all aspects of the holiday. In fact, I'd say St. Patrick's Day falls in my top five fave holidays.

This year, my celebration started the night before! On St. Patrick's Day Eve, Misti and I had plans to do the Breakaway Running St. Patrick's Day Pub Run, which is exactly what it sounds like. You run from the running shop to a bar, drink, run to another bar, drink, run to another bar, drink, and run back to the running store.

It started at 6 p.m., right after work, so rather than eat a heavy dinner, I had a quick Chocolate Chip Mint Protein Smoothie with fresh mint, almond milk, banana, Nutiva chocolate protein powder, and chocolate chips.

Then I met Misti at Breakaway, where we changed into our free pub run shirts (top left). We ran from there to Memphis Made Brewing Co. (top right), where we had some small 10-ounce beers (Plaid Attack Scotch Ale for me). Next stop was Hammer & Ale (bottom left), where I had a Terrapin Mosaic IPA. And our final stop was Slider Inn (bottom right), where I ordered a Memphis Made Firewide Ale.

By the time we made it to Slider, we were pretty hungry, so we split a plate of sliders and fries. Misti ordered a meat slider, and I had a Vegan Triple B (beet, brown rice, & black bean burger with avocado and sprouts). We split a Nuts & Berries (PB&J) slider and an order of fries.

The next morning, on St. Patrick's Day, I started with another minty smoothie! The Shamrockin' Shake from The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook has a base of avocado and coconut milk (from a can), so it's super-thick and creamy. I think it's actually supposed to be a dessert, but it's healthy enough for breakfast. It's loaded with fresh mint and sweetened with agave.

A few days prior, I'd made some Vegan Irish Cream from Joni's Vegan Good Gifts cookbook. I make it every year for spiking my morning coffee. There's only a small amount of Jameson in the whole recipe, so don't worry — it's not potent enough to cause a buzz before work!

My lunch was also from The Superfun TimesHerbed Couscous Salad with Green Apple & Pine Nuts. The homemade dressing was a beautiful shade of green and was filled with lots of fresh herbs — basil, parsley, and thyme — and bright lemon. The recipe called for baby kale, but unless it's massaged to death, I'm not really into baby kale. So I subbed out baby spinach instead. This tasted like spring!

Dinner was a more Irish-inspired meal, also from The Superfun Times. I made the Pepperoni Potato Stew with Kale. Now, I know pepperoni isn't Irish, but what's more Irish than potatoes? And the kale is there for a little green. That pepperoni was created using the seitan steamer method — where you make seitan dough, season it with spices and herbs (in this case, I used fennel for a pepperoni taste), wrap in logs with foil, and steam for 40 minutes. Then it was sliced and added to the stew.

You can't have stew without bread, but The Superfun Times doesn't have a St. Pat's bread recipe. So I made my old standard — the Irish Soda Bread from Celebrate Vegan. I've made this hassle-free quick bread for St. Pat's many times, and it never disappoints. It's dense and hearty with just a hint of sweetness. Perfect with vegan butter.

After dinner, my friend Andy came over and we did some car bombs (I know this isn't PC, but I don't know what else to call them, sorry) using this amazing chocolate coconut Irish potrter by Oskar Blues and the vegan Irish cream I made. I love car bombs SO MUCH. Something about that sweet cream and the thick, cold beer! Mmmmm.

We went from my place to Ghost River Brewing, where we met up with our friend Wes.

And Simon and Jennifer. Ghost River was offering $1 off their Riverbank Red Irish Ale for those who wore green. As you can see above, Andy and Wes FAILED at wearing green. Ugh.

Later, we ended up at Dru's Place — our favorite gay karaoke bar! Cheers!

My friend Shara joined us there too!

Fun night! Hope y'all had a lovely St. Pat's too!