Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bowls, Bowls, All Kinds of Bowls

Do you ever have one of those days that's just a straight-up amazing food day? At the end of the day, you look back and think "Damn, I killed it at meal time ALL DAY LONG." Tuesday was one of those days. I had a bowl (of sorts) for every meal, and each one left me wanting to start over and eat the same thing again and again.

My day started with a Toasted Quinoa Breakfast Bowl. 

I was planning to have I Heart Keenwah Toasted Quinoa Cereal with almond butter that morning, but while I was at the gym pounding out some goblet squats, I started dreaming of a savory bowl with Vegan Egg and sausage.

When I got home, I got to work. I cooked the toasted quinoa cereal according to package directions and stirred in some thawed, frozen spinach, pink salt, and a tablespoon of nooch. While the cereal was cooking, I fried up a Hilary's Eat Well Apple-Maple Sausage patty and I scrambled some Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg. Then I piled it all into a bowl. SO GOOD. And very filling. Hot sauce on top, of course!

And then came lunch. I'd eaten a BBQ Burger Bowl at Nashville's Sunflower Cafe over the weekend, and it was so yummy that I'd been thinking of how I could recreate it at home.

Well, I had one Spicy Black Bean & Beet Burger patty left from when I made these last week (from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook). So I served it atop some I Heart Keenwah toasted quinoa (the only kind I eat these days!) and sauteed zucchini and corn. I topped the burger with Trader Joe's Sriracha Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce and pickled onions. And then I whipped up a quick garlic aioli using low-fat Vegenaise and garlic powder. Simple, quick, and delicious. I did all this in my hour-long lunch break from work and still had plenty of time to eat and enjoy it.

Dinner was equally awesome. I'd purchased some fresh butter beans from the Memphis Farmers Market a couple weeks back and put them in the freezer until I was ready to cook them. I simmered these (about 2 cups of beans) with about 4 cups of veggie broth and one chopped onion. While they cooked, I threw together the Jalapeno Cornbread recipe from my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk. And the best ever bowl of Beans & Cornbread was on the table!

Some folks like to crumble their cornbread over their beans, but I prefer to chunk the whole slice right on top. Southern summer perfection. On the side, I made a Summer Tomato Salad (another Southern delicacy) from Cookin' Crunk — chopped, local heirloom tomatoes, local cucumber, thinly sliced red onion, rice vinegar, avocado oil, sugar, and salt.

Such a good day! I wish I could go back and do it all over again!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July Goddess Box Unpacking!

It's that time again! My July Goddess Provisions box arrived a week or so ago, just in time for my weekend trip to Nashville. You see, this month's box theme is "Goddess on a Road Trip." So perfect!

Here's what was inside. There's a cool sticker, a lemongrass car air freshener, a palo santo stick and essential oil, happy drops, hair oil, black tourmaline, and chimichurri almonds.

I didn't use ALL of these things on my trip, but a number of them did come in handy, especially that car freshener. It's been awhile since I've replaced my old air freshener, which no longer had any scent left. And this one by Purple Frog is way better than what I had anyway because it's all-natural and smells of fresh, bright lemongrass. You can even recharge it by adding essential oils as the scent starts to wane!

These Spice Foods Chimichurri Almonds were a LIFESAVER on the road. I get very bored on road trips and sometimes even a little sleepy. But I've found that so long as I'm stuffing snacks in my face, I stay entertained and alert. These almonds are dry-roasted and coated in a delicious herb mixture.

I took the black tourmaline with me on the road too. I always travel with crystals (usually yellow jasper because it encourages safe travel). I did pack my jasper, but I also included this tourmaline, which guards against negativity and protects you from environmental pollutants (great for highway travel!).

I didn't take the Prim Botanicals Hair Oil or the Calm-a-Mama Happy Drops with me. But I've been using the Happy Drops at home daily, and wow — I will certainly be buying these when I run out. It's an elixir made from rose hydrosol, lemon balm, and chamomile flower essences, and 2-4 drops on the tongue is seriously SO UPLIFTING. It's an instant mood changer. I've long been a believer in flower essences (I use them on the pets as well), and I'm so happy to have this new elixir in my life. I haven't tried the hair oil yet, but I plan to give it a go this weekend. You can use it as a leave-in mask or as a finishing touch, but I'm going to try it as a mask.

There's also the Sacred Wood Essence Palo Santo Stick and Oil. I have a few palo santo sticks already, but this one is special because "You're a Goddess" is carved into it. I burn palo santo and sage daily to clear out negativity and protect my space. I've never owned palo santo essential oil, but it smells amazing. I've been applying to my pulse points in the mornings to boost a sense of peace and well-being.

Finally, there's this really cute sticker! The message is so rad. I placed it on a mirror in my hallway that I look into daily as I'm headed out the door. This will serve as a reminder to face each day with love and gratitude.

By the way, I'm a Goddess Provisions ambassador, which means I make a couple bucks if anyone signs up using this link. I don't get my boxes free though, just to be clear. I subscribe and pay the $33 a month, and it's totally worth it. It's a great deal, and the boxes are so much fun!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Weekend in Nashville

Sorry for the long silence! I spent the weekend in Nashville visiting my partner Paul, and I took Monday off as well. I intended to post last night, but I got back to Memphis yesterday afternoon with only enough time to clean, unpack, and do this week's food prep before bed. Here's a recap of my delicious and fun weekend in Music City.

Paul has been living over there part-time for a little over a year for work, but he's taking a job back home in Memphis soon, so this weekend was his work going-away party weekend. And he wanted me there. So on Saturday morning, I made the 3.5 hour drive to Nashville. He had to work until 6 p.m. Saturday, so before I met up with him, I stopped by Trader Joe's to stock up and then to Sunflower Vegetarian Cafe for a yummy vegan BBQ Burger Bowl — sunflower seed rice topped with sesame kale, caramelized onions, tomato slices, a veggie burger patty with BBQ sauce, and garlic aioli. So good!

After Paul got off work, we met up with several of his co-workers and his sister Sheila for a night of bowling and beer. By the way, us ladies were doing the silly "sorority squat" thing because we thought it'd be funny.

We moved on from bowling to a karaoke bar to close out the night. There are pictures, but they're terrible so I'm not posting them.

On Sunday morning, Paul, Sheila, and his co-worker/friend Colin met up for brunch at Graze in East Nashville.

This is my fave vegan restaurant in Nashville because they have fresh, awesome food and cheap, strong drinks. We started with a couple of $5 Bloody Marys!

I ordered the Breakfast Bowl — biscuit topped with veggie sausage, tempeh bacon, tofu scramble, hollandaise, and fresh greens. Amazing!

Sunday was National Ice Cream Day, and the Piped Piper Creamery is just a few blocks away from Graze, so we popped in for frozen treats. The only vegan options were a couple of sorbets. I chose the Pearis Hilton (pear riesling sorbet). I loved the combo of white wine and fresh pear.

We spent the rest of the day chilling at Colin's pool. I had a couple of lemon radlers that I picked up at Trader Joe's and TJ's Super Burrito (heated up in Colin's microwave) while everyone else had non-vegan pizza. That burrito was delicious, but it was dark by the time I ate it, and my pics are awful.

On Monday, I woke up early and went for a 4-mile run on the Station Camp Greenway in Gallatin, close to Paul's parents' house (where we were staying).

Then I had this Evolve Mellow Mocha Protein Shake that I brought from home. This was my first time trying the Evolve drinks, and I can say that they're definitely my new fave. They're so thick and creamy, like a smoothie!

I needed to leave Nashville by 1 p.m. to make it home in time to get all my chores done. So Paul and I grabbed a quick lunch at Thai Phooket II in Goodlettsville. They had lots of vegan options, but after a long weekend of beers and decadent meals, I wanted something light and fresh. So I opted for an order of Tofu Summer Rolls (the best I've ever had!!!!).

And the Phooket Salad with fried tofu and peanut sauce. So much peanut sauce! I could drink that stuff.

In the car on the drive home, I broke out the Veggie Wrap with Hummus that I picked up from TJ's. This was stuffed with hummus and a yummy coleslaw. Perfect for a meal on the go.

Paul still has a few weeks left in Nashville, but I won't be back there likely until the holidays. While I hate the drive and am not crazy about having to ask people to pet sit, I will miss having an excuse to drive to Nashville from time to time.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Vitamix Cookbook Review

If I was forced to leave my house due to some disaster, I'd obviously save my pets first. And then my photos. But if I still have time to go back for one thing, I'm taking the Vitamix. It is, hands-down, my most used, most cherished kitchen appliance, and quite frankly, I'm not sure how I survived without one for so many years.

I use it most often for making my morning smoothies. Nothing shreds kale and blueberry skins like a Vitamix. It's also my go-to for cashew cheeses, homemade nut butters, salad dressings, sauces, soups, dips, you name it. But real talk, I could really be doing more with it. That's a lesson I learned from 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix, a new cookbook by Robin Asbell.

This is not a totally vegan cookbook, but it has LOTS of vegan recipes (I'd guess maybe half to three-fourths of the book is vegan). Some dishes call for meat and milk, eggs, honey, and, cheese. But most of the vegan recipes are clearly marked (and some are just sneaky vegan, which is awesome for exposing non-vegans to vegan food without making a big deal about it). 

The book is divided into chapters on Nut Butters & Cheeses (and these are VEGAN nut cheeses), Sauces, Dressings/Marinades/Spice Blends, Dips & Spreads, Soups, Burgers & Loaves (mostly veggie burgers and vegan meatloaves), Fresh Flours & Baked Goods (homemade flour y'all!), Desserts (some vegan, some not), Ice Creams/Sorbets/Milkshakes/Ice Pops, Truffles & Energy Balls, Baby Food, Nondairy Milks (all kinds of nut milks!), Smoothies, Smoothie Bowls & Parfaits, Whole Juices & Blends, Blender Cocktails (booze!), and Skin Treatments/Scrubs/Masks/Lotions.

What a diverse range of things, right? I was especially impressed that there's a whole chapter for energy balls. And even baby food (did you know that baby food is great fuel for long-distance runs?). Plus, homemade beauty products! Although I should have let this inspire me to branch out, I pretty much stuck with the smoothies and soups for this review. First, I tried this Green Smoothie Bowl with Berries, Bananas, Nuts, & Flax.

The recipe calls for kefir, so I used a vegan version from Cashewgurt, plus frozen banana, frozen blueberries, and spinach for the base. I added protein powder too. It's topped with raw walnuts, golden flax seeds, and fresh berries. Such a light and lovely breakfast on a hot summer day.

I drink so many smoothies, so I'm always looking for fresh ideas. And this book is filled with them. The Almond Chai Smoothie was made with cold-brewed chai (I used Blue Lotus), almond milk, frozen mango, and chai spices. I also added some Vanilla Chai Vega One powder, which is why this smoothie looks green even though it contains no fresh greens. 

I picked up some gorgeous summer tomatoes and zucchini at the farmer's market last weekend, so I consulted the soups chapter and found this Garden Tomato, Zucchini, & Basil Soup.

THIS WAS SO GOOD. You blend the tomatoes in the Vitamix, saute the zucchini and garlic in a saucepan, and then pour the fresh tomato broth over it. I added fresh basil from my front porch herb garden. This is what summer tastes like. I ate the last of it yesterday, and I'm bummed it's gone.

There are so many more things I want to try so I can branch out of my smoothie and soup Vitamix rut and get creative. My list includes Pepita Butter with Cumin & Chiles (savory pumpkin seed butter!), Cashew Chevre, Vegan Alfredo Sauce (with cashew cream), homemade Curry Powder (made with ground seeds and spices!), Aquafaba Mayo, Vegan Nacho Queso (with cashews), Tempeh Walnut Burgers, Apple Kale Muffins (you make your own flour in the Vitamix using wheat berries!), Vegan Chocolate Cashew Pie, and most importantly, the Lemon Thyme Vodka Slushy (because vodka!).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New East Memphis Sprouts!

Memphis has long been a bit of a health food store desert. When I first moved here in 2002, there was a small indie health food store and a co-op, but those have long since closed. And then for years, the entire city of 656,000 people existed with just ONE Whole Foods store. That was it.

And that Whole Foods was a good 20-minute drive from where I live in Midtown. But over the past few years, another health food chain has begun moving in, and we've finally got options! Sprouts officially opened its new East Memphis store today!

Sprouts has opened two other locations in the Memphis area over the past couple years, but both are in the suburbs (Lakeland and Germantown), which are a ridiculously long drive for groceries to anyone who lives in the city center. This new East Memphis location is STILL pretty far from Midtown and downtown (it's about a block from the aforementioned Whole Foods), but it's much closer than those suburban locations.

My friend Susan and I were invited to a VIP preview party and cooking demo at Sprouts yesterday, before they were officially open to the public. We arrived a little early and browsed around the store. Sprouts has a fantastic produce section, and their prices on fresh veggies and fruits are much cheaper than the competition. I also love how their produce is the centerpiece of the store and not just relegated to a corner like in most grocery stores.

There's a raw foods section.

And pretty impressive bakery. The fresh-baked loaves were calling my name.

And of course, they carry a wide selection of vegan products — plant meats, frozen meals, vegan cheeses, etc. Sprouts carries lots of products that I can't find anywhere else (more on that at the end of this post). A store rep even told me yesterday that they've got a number of vegan prepared food options available in the deli.

Our friends Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence — authors of The Chubby Vegetarian Cookbook and The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook (as well as The Chubby Vegetarian blog) — were leading the demo.

They made a Kale Caesar Salad and a Grilled Vegetable Pizza. Since they're vegetarians, they used dairy cheese in both dishes. But they made some vegan samples so that everyone could eat! Love them! Here's a shot of the non-vegan foods they made during the demo. Sorry for the cheese shot, y'all. But the food was so pretty.

Here are my vegan samples. The pizza was so tasty. They demo-ed a quick crust that I'll be making at home for sure. And the kale caesar had grilled artichokes that were out of this world!

Susan and I didn't have a ton of time to shop after the demo. But I did manage to grab a few products that I've not seen anywhere else around here. I've been wanting to try the Evolve protein drinks forever, and they stock them at Sprouts! They also had the elusive Lenny & Larry's Birthday Cake Protein Cookie, which I've not been able to find in town. Plus, I found some Cookie + Protein vegan chocolate chip cookies in the bakery, and the Vega One Protein + Snack Bars in the very impressive bar aisle. Plus, some shelf-stable jackfruit in a box! WHAT?!

I didn't mean to buy almost only protein supplements, but well, y'all know I get excited about protein!

Anyway, I'm so stoked to have this Sprouts within driving distance of my house. This will be my new one-stop shop for groceries! Now if only Sprouts would open a location in Midtown ...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Savory Black Bean & Spinach Hot Quinoa Cereal

When we think of hearty, steamy morning bowls, we tend to think of oatmeal. And we tend to imagine it dressed up with brown sugar or maple or some other sweet thing. Even though I do enjoy sweets in the morning sometimes (especially smoothies!), I always prefer a savory breakfast over a sweet one. I also get a little bored with oats.

Enter I Heart Keenwah's Toasted Quinoa Hot Cereal. The amazing Natalie at I Heart Keenwah mailed me a few samples of this oatmeal alternative, and I've enjoyed it in both savory and sweet bowls. There's a plain version (with no sweetener) and a lightly sweetened version (with lucuma powder, which adds a hint of sweetness without any added calories).

I tried the lightly sweetened toasted quinoa cereal in a sweet bowl with Bee-free Honee, Wow Butter soynut butter, and local, organic boysenberries. The lucuma is so mildly sweet that, if you want a sweeter bowl, it's best to add additional sweetener, hence the bee-free honee. But it's nice that you have the option of serving it with just a hint of sweetness, if desired.

The texture is closer to cream of wheat than oats. It's very creamy, and there's little need to chew. It's also incredibly filling, more so than oats in my opinion. I've been eating these bowls for breakfast, and they keep me full well beyond my usual morning snack time.

While I do enjoy the sweet, nutty bowls, my favorite way to eat this toasted cereal is in a savory application. I cannot get enough of these Savory Black Bean & Spinach Hot Quinoa Cereal bowls. I use the unsweetened version for this.

Black beans from a can and frozen spinach make this a breeze to throw together on a busy morning. Hummus and avocado take the creamy factor up to 11. And hot sauce ties it all together. Here's my recipe!

Savory Black Bean & Spinach Hot Quinoa Cereal
Serves 1

1/2 cup I Heart Keenwah Toasted Quinoa Hot Cereal (unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1/4 cup black beans
Soy sauce, to taste
2 Tbsp. hummus (any flavor)
1/4 avocado, sliced
Hot sauce

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. While the water is boiling, combine the frozen spinach and black beans in a small skillet with a splash of water. Saute until spinach is thawed. Add a splash of soy sauce (or Bragg's or tamari or coconut aminos!) to taste.

When the water in the saucepan is boiling, stir in the toasted quinoa cereal and allow to boil for two more minutes or until thickened into a porridge-like consistency.

Stir in the black beans and spinach. Season to taste. Transfer to a bowl and top with hummus, avocado, and hot sauce.

Monday, July 10, 2017

More Stuff I Ate

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've no doubt heard the drama over my favorite vegan restaurant/home away from home, Imagine Vegan Cafe. I'd rather not get into the details here, but if you missed the story, which made national headlines, you'll find a TON of mostly inaccurate and biased reporting about it online. But for a fair representation of what happened, read this story in our local daily paper, The Commercial Appeal.

In a nutshell, a diner wrote a negative review. Imagine owner Kristie called the reviewer out on Facebook, and the story went viral. I was so stressed over the whole thing for most of last week. I couldn't even look at my Facebook feed because it was filled with hateful comments by (mostly) non-vegans set out to destroy a mom-and-pop business. And of course, the fight devolved into people making fun of vegans. But turns out, no press is bad press, and Imagine has been busier than ever over the past few days as more people learn the cafe even exists. So I feel better now. I ate there twice last week to show my support. Yesterday, Paul and I met our friends Pam and Angela for brunch, and I ordered the Chili Cheese Fries (topped with vegan cheddar sauce, black bean chili, and lots of vegan sour cream).

I also dined there there on Friday night with my friends Andy and Shay. Andy is not vegan but still loves their food! I was trying to eat lightly on Friday night, so I opted for the Veggie Plate with vegan mac & cheese, garlic kale, mashed sweet potatoes, and (not pictured) black-eyed peas.

Fridays in Crosstown, where I live and work, are now Food Truck Fridays! Food trucks park on the plaza at Crosstown Concourse from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A couple Fridays ago, Stick Em (a kabob truck) was there and I got their Tofu Skewers with Veggies. Y'all this is hands-down the best tofu in town.

This past Friday, the Eddy's Pepper taco truck was there at Food Truck Friday, and I got their Vegetarian Tacos (with black beans, corn, and tomatoes) and a side of their taco filling as a dip for chips.

And speaking of Crosstown Concourse, French Truck Coffee is now open! Yay! I finally have a coffee shop in walking distance from my house. I dropped by on opening day for a New Orleans Style Iced Coffee (chicory coffee with almond-coconut milk and simple syrup). It was perfect!

Last Thursday, Susan and I were planning to lunch at Pho Binh for their amazing tofu buffet, but when we arrived, there was a sign on the door that said the owners were on vacation for a couple weeks! We REALLY wanted fried tofu, so we opted for Phuong Long instead. I got the Stir Fried Vegetable Combo with Tofu. Loved the ratio of tofu to veggies.