Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Tribute to Pandora

My 16-year-old sweet baby girl kitty Pandora has crossed the rainbow bridge on Monday, so I'm dedicating tonight's post to her.

Pandora first came into my life in September 2003 at a Summerland Grove Mabon celebration. My friend Shell brought kittens, and she was threatening to take them to the animal shelter if no one took them home that night. At the time, Memphis Animal Services had a terrible euthanasia rate (hovering in the high 80% range!), and Pandora pretty quickly imprinted on me. I knew I didn't want her to go to the shelter! So I left that night with a new baby kitten.

At the time, I had two other fur babies — Datsun (who passed in 2016) and Akasha (who passed in 2018). What was one more cat, right? (This is what we said every time and eventually ended up with six cats and two dogs!). Here's baby Dora snuggled up with her big brother, Akasha.

A few months after I took in Pandora, I broke up with my then-boyfriend Shane and quickly met current partner Paul. So Paul has been the only dad Pandora has really known. She also briefly had a baby sister, when we took in street cat Alexius. But Alexius had FELV and only lived a very short time.

But for the rest of Pandora's long life, she was the only girl (besides me) in a house full of boys. And she ruled the roost. All the other cats and dogs knew she was Queen, and for the most part, no one messed with her. Well, sometimes Maynard would try to nudge her out of her favorite chair, but she'd usually resist, letting him push her butt with his nose while refusing to move.

Pandora had the softest belly of all bellies, and unlike most cats, she LOVED belly rubs. She'd spread her legs wide and demand belly rubs. She had absolutely no regard for "ladylike" manners.

Pandora lived a long, healthy life with hardly any trips to the vet (aside from a few routine check-ups) over her 16 years. But this past summer, she started sneezing blood. She was checked for allergies and treated with a couple different antibiotics and an anti-fungal, none of which helped at all. Finally, the vet deduced that she had a nasal tumor, which meant her days were numbered.

Over the past few weeks, her breathing had become more labored, and she was developing chronic UTIs. Things weren't looking good, so we knew it was time. We were so, so sad to see her go. Pandora and I grew up together (I was only 22 when we took her in!), and her passing marks the end of an era. We'll miss our Dora-Bora so very much.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Doughnuts! Holiday Drinks!

Y'all, I love my job. Yesterday, we did a staff coloring workshop with Vegan Doughnuts (!!!!) made by co-worker Lily and spike-your-own Vegan Hot Cocoa. I added a shot of vegan Bailey's and peppermint schnapps to mine. They even had vegan Reddi Whip!

Speaking of holiday drinks, I put up my Yule tree last Thursday after Thanksgiving dinner. As per tradition, I enjoyed a Silk Nog spiked with rum while listening to my holiday playlist (Christmas in Hollis is a must! And Last Christmas by Wham!).

I just finished my last plate of Thanksgiving leftovers today (a week later!!). I've mostly been enjoying the leftovers as is, but I did have a nice Vegan Turkey and Cranberry Sandwich one day. With a side of Good Karma French Onion Dip (y'all, this stuff is SO GOOD).

On Tuesday night, I met some co-workers at the new Bar Hustle downtown, where our friend (and former Crosstown Arts bar manager) Bart works. Bart made us some lovely cocktails! I got the Rat's Brains & Microchips (named for a Lost Sounds song). Not sure what all was in it, but it had lots of bourbon.

We were there awhile and were all pretty hungry, so we ordered a round of Mushroom Toasts. This handcrafted porridge sourdough is topped with wild mushrooms and caramelized onions! It's usually served with cheese and pesto, but I left those off to make it vegan. The bread was baked by the amazing Ali, who used to bake at Crosstown Arts. I miss her baking at work, so I'm glad I can get her goods downtown now! She has her own bakery, Hustle & Dough, inside the Arrive Hotel (where Bar Hustle is located).

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Cinnamon Roll! GGB Bowl! Salads!

Let's start with the sweet stuff. I scored this awesome Cinnamon Roll from LuLu's at the CY Farmer's Market a couple Saturdays ago. Enjoyed after a muddy 15-mile trail run in the rain. Well deserved.

And now on to the healthy stuff! On days I'm not drinking smoothies for breakfasts, I'm typically having Oatmeal Bowls with nut butter and fresh berries. Easy and filling.

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I tried to eat mostly whole foods. I found a recipe for this Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Satay online, and for the life of me, I cannot find the recipe again. Sorry! But it's basically a cabbage mix with edamame, baked tofu, scallions, and cilantro, dressed with a peanut sauce made with peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garlic.

Here's a GGB Bowl (grain, green, bean bowl) enjoyed for a quick work lunch. These are my favorite lunches to pack cause everything fits into one bowl. This one had quinoa, roasted beets, steamed kale, baked tofu, and tahini sauce. 

And finally, on the night before Thanksgiving, my mom and I grabbed salads from the salad bar at Truck Patch (Jonesboro's indie health food store). They have the BEST salad bar with toppings that range from chickpeas to kalamata olives to english peas to hearts of palm. Even roasted garlic and vegan bacon bits!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

15th Years Vegan!

Every year, I celebrate my veganaversary on Black Friday since I went vegan the day after Thanksgiving in 2004 (and I went vegetarian the day after Thanksgiving in 1994). Technically, in 2004, that was November 26, but it's easier to keep up with if I just celebrate on Black Friday.

My mom and I have long had a Black Friday tradition of brunch at Brother Juniper's, followed by holiday shopping in Memphis. My morning usually starts with leftover pie (this year, it was apple pie) and coffee. And then my mom arrives in town around 10-ish, and we head to brunch.

Brother Juniper's is a super-popular brunch spot, especially on Black Friday. So we typically wait between 30 and 45 minutes on a table. Totally worth it. Thankfully, there's a nice coffee bar where we wait.

For years, we've been ordering the Fahim's Special (a tofu scramble dish with home fries and toast). But this year, they've added a new vegan menu item — the Spicy Tofu Potato Bowl. My mom and I both ordered this.

It's a tofu scramble, flecked with jalapenos, served atop home fries and topped with guac, and then you get extra home fries on the side!! And Brother Juniper's has the best home fries in the world. They also have amazing house-baked bread that's so good with their made-in-house jam.

After brunch, we went shopping for holiday gifts, which took us several hours. Although we were stuffed from brunch, all that shopping worked up my appetite again, and I ended the day with the best part about Thanksgiving — a leftovers plate!! Enjoyed while watching The Wire on Netflix.

In 15 years of veganism, a lot has changed. The cheese is WAY better. There are milks made from oats, hemp, almonds, cashews, and even peanuts! Vegan nacho tortilla chips are a thing. Plant-based burgers are everywhere. Vegan items are common on menus just about anywhere you go. And more people are vegan than ever before. It's been so cool to see the progress of veganism over the years.

And I've changed some too. I used to be a self-professed (and proud) junk food vegan. And while I still love my indulgent foods, I've leaned way further into the health side of the movement. I'm still 100% in it for the animals, but as an athlete, it's been fun to see what whole foods-based eating can do for my running performance. Here's to many more years of veganism!!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019 Recap!

I'm back after a very long and relaxing holiday weekend! I hope y'all had a fantastic Thanksgiving. I certainly did. Because I LOVE to eat (especially when my mama is cooking), Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. There's no pressure to buy gifts. All you gotta do is EAT!!

And run. I always get a good run in before the big meal. For years, I've been meeting my friend Misti in Paragould (a small town about 20 minutes from Jonesboro, my hometown) for an unofficial turkey trot run. It's not a race. Just a big group of people who run between 3 and 10 miles on Thanksgiving morning. Thursday on my 50K training plan called for 5 miles, so that's what we did.

Here we are with the whole group. We're on the front row, right side. As you can see, the sun is just rising. We meet at 6 am (which means getting up at 5 am on my day off!). 

My family typically eats Thanksgiving lunch, rather than dinner. So my mom was already in the kitchen when I got back to Jonesboro around 7:30 am. By noon, we were fixing our plates. I picked up the Trader Joe's Holiday Roast this year, and it was good. I still love Tofurky the most though! This TJ's roast was breaded and came with a gravy packet, which was pretty cool.

My mama's Cornbread Dressin' is the highlight of the meal. No one makes dressin' better than my mama. She makes a vegan version and a non-vegan one, and I get to take all of the vegan leftovers home. I'm still eating dressin' on Monday!! The veganized recipe is in my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk. But if you make it, it won't be as good as mama's. 

The second best thing is mama's Hash Brown Casserole (also in Cookin' Crunk). Her vegan version has lots of vegan cheddar, vegan margarine, vegan sour cream, and crispy cornflakes. It's perfect.

We also had Coleslaw (vegan!) and Cranberry Sauce. Plus, not pictured (cause I forgot) Sweet Corn with Cream Cheese (she used the vegan Treeline cream cheese) and Green Beans.

And finally, there was Roasted Asparagus with vegan parm and Vegan Buttered Rolls.

Here's my plate! I ate every bite, and I was STUFFED afterward. Just the way one should feel on Thanksgiving Day.

But don't forget dessert! After we let our food settle for a bit, my mom brought out the Vegan Apple Pie! I enjoyed a warm slice topped with vegan Reddi Whip. 

What an awesome day! Here's my family — daddy, mama, and me-maw. Maynard (my pup) was there too, but he doesn't sit still for group pics. 

We definitely missed having Granny there. She passed a week ago Sunday (thanks for all your kind words on my tribute post to Granny!!). She used to always bring a batch of her famous greens over on Thanksgiving Day. And she'd always insist on helping clean up, even when my mom would tell her not to worry about it. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Vegan Friendsgiving Potluck!

Every year (for as far back as I can remember) during my time in Memphis, my friend Vaughan has hosted a vegan Thanksgiving event. Way back in the day, he'd rent out a local comedy club and cater the whole thing (and we'd do silly vegan skits on-stage!). But more recently, he and his partner Nicole have hosted at their house. It's a huge event with lots of vegans and lots of food!

This year, I made a Vegan Green Bean Casserole using this recipe from Minimalist Baker. I loved how this turned out! It calls for fresh green beans, so you get that nice crunch. I love canned green beans as much as the next Southern girl, but fresh is always nice.

Mike brought Vegan Corn Pudding (excellent!!) and his famous Field Roast Pigs in Blankets (he uses Field Roast Apple Maple breakfast links instead of the usual hot dogs).

Duffy brought the Celebration Roast with Cranberry Sauce, a must-have at any proper Thanksgiving meal!

Clarita and James brought the Dressing, my favorite Thanksgiving dish. This was super delicious!

There were lots of sweet potato dishes, like this Mashed Sweet Potato Casserole. Also some excellent Coleslaw.

Someone brought Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes.

And someone else brought Vegan Candied Yams. My family never does the sweeter sweet potato dishes, but I love them so this was a real treat!

Jen & Simon went non-traditional with these Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms. Really yummy!

Leslie and Steven showed up with the most delicious Vegan Cheese Ball! It had been thoroughly enjoyed by everyone else before I could get to it!

Stephen and Abby brought a yummy Pomegranate Rice Stuffing!

Table shot!!!!

There were several other dishes that I failed to photograph — vegan moussaka, layered chili dip, vegan mac & cheese, rice & brussels sprouts, and several more. 

Let's not forget dessert! I don't know who brought this Chocolate Mousse Pie, but it was insanely good.

Duffy (the holiday roast bringer) also brought some Chocolate Brownies, and Nicole made Chocolate Cake Balls. I'd say Megan won the day though with her excellent Caramel Apple Pie!! THIS WAS SO GOOD.

As always, I ate WAY too much and pretty much couldn't move for a few hours afterward. I hate that feeling, but I'm a binge eater at potlucks and buffets. I have to taste every single thing. And I don't believe in wasting food, so I'm a plate cleaner. This is what plate #1 looked like. There were two more plates (a seconds plate and a dessert plate) after this. 

After that meal, I told myself I was never eating again! But two days later, I'm ready to do it all again on Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving y'all! I'll be back after the holiday!

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Tribute to My Granny

My Granny – Abbie Ruth Phillips — passed away on Sunday, November 24, 2019. Since she played such a huge role in my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk, and enjoyed reading this blog, I thought it only fitting to pay tribute to her here.

Here's my Granny WAAAAY back in the day with my dad. She and my Pa, Gordon Phillips, had two kids — my dad (David) and my Uncle Mike.

Before she retired, Granny was a manager at Dillard's at Indian Mall in Jonesboro. I grew up hanging around Dillard's and watching her be an awesome boss lady. From a very early age, Granny showed me that women can be large and in charge!

In my pre-teens, I aspired to be model when I grew up, so Granny had me model in Dillard's mall fashion shows! And one time, she asked me to dress up as a troll (with a full head mask) and hand out candy for some Dillard's event (maybe Halloween? I can't remember), but I felt very cool.

Eventually, Granny joined my Pa in retirement. They used to LOVE to go camping. Or more like "glamping" since they had a fancy camper with a full kitchen. My parents and I would drive over to join them for camping meals sometimes. Granny and Pa loved to fish, so we often had fried fish for those meals. This was before I was vegan, of course!

Here's me and Granny. I remember thinking she must be really old with all those candles on her cake, but she was probably only in her 50s then.

Granny was a breast cancer survivor. I love that she proudly let her bald head shine!

When I was in college, I was a folklore minor (also a women's studies minor — I had two!). I did a big paper on canning and preserving, and Granny taught me how to can and put up veggies for the winter. Granny was a prolific canner! I still have some of her canned goods in my pantry, and I will cherish those meals.

Granny also taught me to save jars and plastic containers to re-use. It's something I'm sure she learned growing up during the Depression, but as someone who is always trying to lessen my environmental footprint, I'm grateful that Granny taught me the value of saving.

Granny was a master of Southern cookin'. It was at her home that I had my first bowl of blackeyed peas on New Year's Day — a Southern tradition that she firmly upheld. Nobody (and I do mean nobody) could make better greens than my Granny. Rather than traditional collards, Granny used rape greens, which she often stole from her neighbor's garden. Ha!

When I went vegan in 2004, Granny quickly adapted her recipes, specifically her desserts, using vegan margarine and egg replacer. She GOT it. And she worked and worked until those veganized recipes were perfect. Granny's vegan coconut icebox cake and coconut pie were amazing, and I'm so grateful that we got those recipes on paper before her dementia set in.

In fact, Granny might as well have been named as a co-author on my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk, since so many of the recipes (both desserts and savory dishes) were hers. I'll have to make her Corn Casserole and Mandarin Orange Cobbler soon in her honor.

We'll miss Granny. She was an awesome lady.