Thursday, December 3, 2020

Cookbook Review: East

Sometimes a cookbook comes along that's as much a work of art as it is a cookbook. That's the case with East by Meera Sodha. The tagline "120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing" lets you know the "east" refers to the eastern part of the globe. The hardcover is a natural brown paper with a subdued orange, purple, and green illustration, and the inside is filled with beautiful, full-page color photographs of nearly every dish. 

Even the table of contents is gorgeous! As you can see from this list, this isn't a fully vegan cookbook. Some recipes do call for eggs and dairy, but since Eastern dishes tend to be less heavy on dairy, there are more vegan recipes than non-vegan ones. The vegan recipes are labeled with a V, and the non-vegan ones are easily veganizable with vegan egg subs and plant cheese.

Indian cuisine is my favorite, and there's plenty of that in here, but I also love Indo-Chinese, Japanese ramen dishes, Thai food, and Korean food. It's all in East!

I tried two recipes from the book, starting with this White Miso Ramen with Tofu & Asparagus. This is a classic soymilk ramen, so the broth is made with unsweetened soymilk, tahini, miso, shiitake, garlic, and ginger. It's super-flavorful! You simmer the broth and then blend in the Vitamix before adding the chile-spiced tofu, edamame, and asparagus. For the noodles, I used Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice Ramen, but any ramen noodle would work here.

I really love the creamy tofu dish, but I loved the Chile Tofu even more. This Indo-Chinese recipe reminded me of the gobi manchurian I loved to order at the old Woodlands vegetarian Indian restaurant in Memphis that closed down years ago. The robust sauce is made with cumin, garlic, ginger, chiles, tomato paste, and soy sauce, and it coats cornstarch-fried tofu and sauteed bell peppers. 

A few other recipes I've got my eye on: Quick Coconut Dal with Tomato Sambol, Sweet Potato & Eggplant Massaman Curry, Scrambled Tofu Akuri (a Parsi recipe), and Mushroom Mapo Tofu. The dessert chapter is less vegan-friendly than the others, but there are a few options: Salted Miso Brownies, Sunken Ginger Plum & Spelt Cake, and Stem Ginger Chocolate Truffles.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Butternut Mac, Sheet Pan Meals & Moroccan Soup!

The week before Thanksgiving, I was trying extra hard to eat mostly whole foods since I knew I'd be subsisting on plant meat and casseroles for days after the holiday. I got some butternut squash in my CSA, so I made my favorite recipe for Butternut Squash Mac & Cheeze. It's from No Meat Athlete's Health Made Simple program, so I can't link to the recipe since it's a subscription site. It's unlike other versions I've made because you not only roast the squash, but you also roast the other veggies that go in the sauce (onions, garlic, shallots). The roasting makes for a super tasty caramelized flavor. I served this with some braised mustard greens (also from my CSA) on the side.

Here's a recent burger! Gardein Black Bean Chipotle with Chao Cheese, plus some air-fried fries with homemade fry sauce for dipping. I ate this after a Saturday long run (10 miles, maybe?).

Here's another burger! But this time, I had PlantMade Buffalo Cauliflower with vegan ranch on the side. The PlantMade buffalo cauliflower comes frozen, and I just toss it into the air fryer. It's by far by favorite frozen convenience food.

On a recent Monk Bowl Monday, I made the Sheet Pan Meal from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook and served over farro. This recipe is just a blueprint because you can roast any veggies and tofu together, add some seasoning, and – boom! — dinner is ready. I roasted daikon, cauliflower (both from my CSA), sweet potato, and tofu. I topped this with a little TJ's Green Dragon sauce.

And finally, here's a tasty Soup Sunday meal. I made the Moroccan Lentil & Chickpea Soup from Eat Feel Fresh. It's got lentils, chickpeas, kale, and Moroccan spices, like cinnamon, and it's topped with cashew cream. Super filling and delicious!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Solstice Decorating & Snacks!

Black Friday is my veganaversary! As of last week, I've been vegan 16 years and vegetarian for 26 years.

The date that I celebrate changes every year since Black Friday changes, but I celebrate my vegan anniversary on Black Friday (rather than a set date) since I went vegetarian in 1994 on the day after Thanksgiving and vegan in 2004 on the day after Thanksgiving. It seems easier to keep that celebration on one easy-to-remember holiday! Most years, my veganaversary begins with leftover Thanksgiving pie for breakfast, and then my mom and I head to Brother Juniper's for veganaversary brunch. And then we hit up all the shops for Black Friday deals. I know some people hate the idea of Black Friday crowds, but we don't mind!

Unfortunately, things are just too risky this year for Black Friday crowds, so we broke tradition and skipped brunch and shopping this year. Instead, Paul came home from Nashville, where he had been banished to during my pre-Thanksgiving quarantine, and we celebrated by sleeping in, eating leftovers, and later in the night, putting up the Solstice tree.

My best friends Sheridan/Drew always post about their holiday tradition of enjoying a vegan snack plate while they put up their tree, and it sounded like such a fun idea. I was planning to rip off their tradition anyway, but after my friend Susan shared part of her Feast & Graze vegan charcuterie plate with me, I knew it was meant to be. Susan left a Tupperware with some snacks from her board on my porch!

Feast & Graze is a Memphis-based charcuterie delivery service, and they've recently added vegan boards to their offerings. This was so yummy! It had a vegan cheddar, a spreadable vegan cream cheese (Kite Hill maybe?), two kinds of crackers, fancy mustard, apricot jam, marcona almonds, candied orange, grapes, blueberries, dried apple slices, cherries, grape tomatoes, seasoned cucumbers, dried mushrooms, and Swedish Fish! 

So much fun! And all for me! Paul doesn't like most foods, so he made his own plate with just non-vegan cheddar and some Club crackers. He's a very simple dude. We also opened a bottle of Tennessee Shine Wine that our friends Simon and Jen picked up for us on their recent trip to the Smokies. 

Here's Paul decking the halls (or, rather, our fireplace mantel).

I convinced Maynard to wear this silly Santa hat in exchange for a couple treats. He's so easy.

It's hard to believe it's already Solstice season! 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 Recap!

My favorite holiday has come and gone! I finished my last plate of leftovers for lunch today, and I'm so sad Thanksgiving (or, as vegans like to call it, ThanksLIVING) is over. Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, my parents and I started a two-week quarantine so we could safely gather for the holiday. We're very lucky in that we have a tiny family (just me, my parents, and my me-maw) and that no one is working in an office or public setting. I've been working from home since March, and my parents are retired. It also helps that my family lives an hour away by car, so there's no need for air travel or road trip pee stops. I know it was tough for so many families to safely gather this year, and I'm grateful that mine was able to.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for two reasons: 1) my family, and 2) THE FOOD. I love to eat, and nothing makes me happier than a big ole plate of vegan turkey and my mama's famous vegan dressin. Here's my plate!

On that plate, you'll find Tofurky with gravy, cornbread dressin, hash brown casserole, vegan chicken & dumplins, corn, green beans, coleslaw, homemade cranberry sauce, and a dinner roll.

Every year, I change up the vegan turkey, depending on whatever roast is new for the year. But so far, Tofurky is still my fave, so I went with an old standard this year. Here's a not-so-great shot of my Tofurky after I'd hacked it all up. Every year, my mom makes me a Tofurky, and she makes turkey for the rest of the family.

The stars of every Thanksgiving at my parents' house are the Cornbread Dressin and Hash Brown Casserole. Both recipes are actually in Cookin' Crunk, but somehow, when I make these dishes, they're never as good as my mama's. For one, she uses white flour for the cornbread, and the Crunk recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour because I was on a health kick when I wrote that book. So if you try the recipe at home, just use white flour for maximum effect!

We don't typically have Vegan Chicken & Dumplins for Thanksgiving, but this is one of my other favorite meals from my mom, and I made a special request this year. She used the Better Than Bouillon No Chicken broth, and these were perfect.

I was on dinner roll duty, so I made Jackie Sobon's Fluffy Dinner Rolls from the holiday issue of VegNews. These were fluffy (as advertised!) and great! We cooked them a little too long waiting for the tops to brown (the oven was a bit crowded), so they dried out a bit. But it was nothing a generous schmear of Earth Balance couldn't fix. 

For dessert, my mama made a Lemon Cream Pie that was AMAZING! It had a graham cracker crust, a layer of vegan cream cheese mixed with coco whip, a layer of lemon curd, another layer of coco whip, and a top layer of crumbled lemon Oreos. WOW! My mama and daddy don't like pumpkin, so we tend to go non-traditional with the pie every year.

Maynard makes the drive over to his grandma and grandpa's house for the holidays, so he got in plenty of couch time with them.

And we got a nice nature walk in around the woods by their house. I also went for a solo 4.5-mile Tofurky Trot at Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro before Thanksgiving lunch.

Family photo time! It always takes us forever to get the right angle on these timer shots. I think we'd given up by this point. 

I've been eating leftovers for days! My mom sent me home with so much food! Most days over the weekend, I had big leftovers plates, but I did make a couple of Thanksgiving Sliders using the dinner rolls, Tofurky, dressin', and cranberry sauce.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Venezuelan Food + Grain Bowls + Scrambled Chickpeas!

I'm currently doing a Thanksgiving quarantine, so I've been avoiding my usual takeout pick-up and opting instead for contactless delivery. Global Café in Crosstown Concourse offers free delivery within four miles of the building, so last Thursday, I ordered the Venezuelan Vegan Plate with black beans, white rice, and plantains. It sounds so simple, but everything is seasoned to perfection. It's one of my favorite dishes in Memphis!

Last Monday, I made the Turmeric Tahini Bowl from Eat Feel Fresh. This has quinoa with lentils, kale, sweet potatoes, avocado, and a creamy turmeric tahini sauce. It's topped with radishes and nori flakes. I love wholesome meals like this!

I wanted to make scrambled tofu for breakfast a couple days ago, but I only had enough tofu left for another recipe I wanted to try later in the week. And I couldn't get more tofu since I'm quarantining, so I made Scrambled Chickpeas instead! This recipe is from Isa Does It, and I'd made it before years ago. It's a nice alternative to tofu.

I wanted a quick, healthy, snacky dessert one night, so I made the Two Minute Turtles from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. These are just dates stuffed with pecans and chocolate chips. You heat them in the microwave for just a few seconds so the chocolate gets melty.

And finally, here's my latest Bring It Food Hub CSA haul! Daikon, mustard greens, apples, cauliflower, and green tomatoes. 

I hope y'all have a happy Thanksgiving! I'll be spending the day with my very tiny family, and I'll check back in after the holiday!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Southern Fried Awesomeness + Omelets, Mac, & More!

A few weeks ago, a traveling vegan pop-up made a stop at Memphis Made Brewing Co. Southern Fried Vegan is oddly based out of California, nowhere near the South, but I'm glad they were traveling down here! The food was SO GOOD. There was a line wrapped around the brewery for hours, waiting for their food. I think every vegan in Memphis showed up for this. Ha! They were doing plates for $20, and you got a main and four sides. Since that was a little pricy, Paul and I opted to split a plate, but it turned out to be more than enough food. Oh, and we got a side of tots with cheezy sauce.

We went with vegan fried chicken, mac & cheese, greens, coleslaw, and baked beans. Paul and I took turns standing in the line (while the other person guarded our table inside the open-air brewery). Paul ended up being the one who was in line when it was time to order, so he arrived at our table carrying our plate of food plus tots and cheeze, which I wasn't expecting! He said just tots sounded good, and I will always agree with that. He got the cheeze on the side because he thinks he doesn't like vegan cheeze. More for me! The meal was amazing, and the fried chicken was our favorite part. We were wishing we had two pieces to share instead of having to halve one, but we had plenty of food.

We had leftover cheezy sauce, so I took the rest home and used it to make some Vegan Mac & Cheese the next day. I used Barilla red lentil protein pasta and some broccoli for good measure. The cheezy sauce seemed to be made with melted vegan cheese, so it was oily and indulgent. Really yummy!

I treated myself to a Just Egg Omelet on a Sunday morning forever ago! I have such a backlog of photos to post! Just Egg can be a little tricky to flip, but it tastes just like chicken eggs, and I felt very special eating this. It was stuffed with wild mushrooms from Bluff City Fungi, spinach, and vegan cheese.

Here are some recent healthy weekday breakfasts. I made the Pumpkin Pie OMmeal from Eat Feel Fresh. This is just rolled oats with pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice, plus lots of coconut milk. Topped with dates and pumpkin seeds. Tis the season!

And here's a really fun new way for me to get my morning protein powder in! I made the Sweet Potato N'oatmeal from Eat Feel Fresh, an alternative to protein oats. These mashed sweet potatoes have Complement Protein, pumpkin spice, and coconut milk. Topped with cashew butter, maple, and pumpkin seeds. Will be making this again!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

New Daily Meal Themes for Fall/Winter!

If you were following my blog over the summer, you might have noticed that I'd adopted some daily meal themes to plan my dinners around. I got the idea from the No Meat Athlete podcast, and I had been doing Macaroni Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wok Wednesday, Takeout Thursday, Freestyle Friday, Sizzle Saturday (grilled food), and Slice Sunday (pizza!). But as it's gotten colder out, I've been wanting to work in some soups and other warming dishes, like Indian food or hearty sandwiches that stick to your ribs.

So I came up with new themes! Here's a rundown. Mondays are now Monk Bowl Mondays, otherwise known as Buddha bowls. But Buddha doesn't alliterate with anything! Basically, I can have any kind of grain, green, bean bowl on Mondays. I recently made this amazing and beautiful Rainbow Pad Thai Bowl from Eat Feel Fresh on a Monk Bowl Monday. The recipe called for kelp noodles, but the Whole Foods is far from my house, so I subbed shirataki noodles that I found at the Vietnamese market. It also has zucchini, carrot, and beet noodles (sauteed, not raw), edamame, bean sprouts, and a cashew-ginger sauce. It was as good as it looks.

Tuesdays are still Taco Tuesdays because tacos are forever. This past Taco Tuesday, I had a Black Bean Tostada with canned refried black beans, Chao cheese, and sauteed veggies (onion, cabbage, corn, and spinach). Topped with guacamole salsa and red salsa. And lots of hot sauce!

Wednesdays have become World Cuisine Wednesdays, which opens things up to a world (get it?!) of possibilities. Last Wednesday, I went Middle Eastern and whipped up some oil-free Baked Falafel from a No Meat Athlete recipe. I served it in whole wheat pita with tomato, avocado, kalamatas, Trader Joe's tabbouleh hummus (the best!) and Simple Truth plant-based cauliflower tzatziki. 

Thursdays are still Takeout Thursdays because I like to support local restaurants at least once a week. And since I don't run on Friday mornings (rest day), Thursdays nights are the best nights to go wild. Last Thursday, I got Imagine Vegan Cafe takeout and ordered their new Chicken Philly with fries. You can't see it, but under all that cheesy sauce, there are vegan chicken strips and sauteed peppers and onions.

Fridays are still Freestyle Fridays (anything goes!), but I try to focus on whole foods on Friday nights since my long runs are on Saturday mornings. Last week, I made this Roasted Potato Bowl with air-fried roasted red potatoes (from my CSA), black beans, noochy sauce, coleslaw, and avocado. Unfortunately, the avocado turned brown almost immediately. BOOOOO! Still tasted good though.

Saturdays are now Sandwich Saturdays, so that can mean a traditional sandwich or a burger, hot dog, or really anything stuck inside some bread. On a recent Saturday, I made the Mushroom & Spinach Panini from the original Engine 2 book (the one that's all about the diet, not the cookbook). This simple sandwich has sauteed wild mushrooms (from my CSA), baby spinach, and hummus. That's it! It was nice and simple.

Sundays are Soup Sundays! Typically, that would be a warm soup or stew, but last Sunday, I made the raw Heart Chakra Soup from Eat Feel Fresh because I'm working on balancing all of my chakras, and I'm currently focused on the heart. This blended cold soup has avocado, zucchini, cucumber, spinach, garlic, and almonds, and it was really good. Fortunately, it was a warm November day here, so I didn't mind a cold soup.