Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alpha and Omega-3

Every morning for years, I've taken a tablespoon of ground flax seed stirred into a cup of water, along with my other supplements. Gotta get those omega-3's if I want to slow the onset of Alzheimer's. It runs in my family, and I'm already forgetful enough as it is. When the folks from Ascenta, a natural health products company, contacted me about reviewing their NutraVege omega-3 supplement, I jumped at the chance.

NutraVege comes in oil form, and it derives its omega-3 source from the echium plant. According the company, echium oil contains the omega-3 Stearidonic acid (SDA), which readily converts to EPA. EPA is what alpha-linolenic acid must be converted into in order to play a biological role in the body. Echium oil converts to EPA at a rate of approximately 20 percent compared to 3.28 percent for flax.

In other words, echium oil provides a better source of essential omega-3's. And that sounds pretty good to me.

The recommended dose of NutraVege is two teaspoons daily, which equals about 80 calories. I only take in 30 calories from my tablespoon of ground flax seed. So that's one downside to the product. I'm short and tiny, and if I want to stay this size, my daily calorie intake isn't supposed to exceed 1697 calories per day. And I'm a girl who likes to eat. I prefer my precious calories in food form, but I realize the importance of taking in a good source of omega-3's.

The oil is citrus flavored and pretty darn tasty. But it does feel a little strange drinking a shot of straight-up oil. However, I'd buy more if I could afford it. Unfortunately, the list price for NutraVege is $34.99 for a 6.8-ounce bottle. That's a little steep on a newspaper reporter's budget. But you have some extra money to spend on supplements, NutraVege seems to be a better option than flax oil or seed.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pixiepine Meets Vegan Crunk!

I've been reading Leslie's Pixiepine blog for years! And I always knew that if we ever met in real life, we'd be fast friends. We share a mutual admiration for Sarah Kramer, healthy (ish) eating, hula-hooping, eco-friendly living, a certain blue Vegan Peta hoodie, and delicious vegan food. Earlier this week, Leslie Facebook-messaged me to let me know that she and her man Brad would be stopping through Memphis on route to Ohio. She wanted to meet for lunch, and of course I said hell yea! Here's Leslie and Brad:

Leslie and Brad own an indie record shop in West Monroe, Louisiana called POPshop & Spazz Records, so they were eager to check out Memphis' Goner Records in the Cooper-Young District. I met them at Goner and we tried to walk across the street to Cafe Ole for lunch, but Cafe Ole was closed. So we went next door to the Young Avenue Deli, a vegan-friendly cafe/rock club with yummy pita sammiches. I ordered the California Pita (with avocado, olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers) with some of the Deli's delicious, greasy fries:

After lunch, Brad went back to Goner to dig through records while Leslie and I chatted up about everything from gardening and breakfast clubs to the elderly and bike lanes. We have a lot in common and I'm sure we'd hang out if we lived in the same town. We even share the same tattoo! Vegan power!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Xmas Wrap-Up

Hope y'all had a happy holiday. I certainly did! On Friday night, my boyfriend Paul and I went to Jonesboro, Arkansas to spend Xmas Eve with my family. We went out for Chinese buffet at a place called Hibachi. They actually had a ton of veg options, like spring rolls, fried rice without egg, kimchee, seaweed salad, and miso soup! Then we headed home to open presents. My first gift was this super-duper, crazy-awesome Electra Ladies Cruiser bike in mint green. I named it Falcor because, like the flying luckdragon in The Neverending Story, this bike will take me magical places:

Datsun also enjoyed opening gifts from his grandma and grandpa. This package contained his favorite brand of bouncy ball:

After my family present time was over, my BFF Sheridan (who was also in town for the holidays) came over to exchange gifts with me. We sipped spiked Silk Nog and ripped open our matching gifts. We made a pact to buy each other Isa's new low-fat vegan cookbook — Appetite for Reduction!

I also scored some bad-ass cookbooks from my parents — Color Me Vegan, Party Vegan, Viva Vegan, Skinny Bitch: The Ultimate Everyday Cookbook, the Vegan Rustic Cookbook, and Dr. Neal Bernard's Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook.

On Xmas morning, we drove to my Granny's house for a big ole Xmas Breakfast. Although Granny makes traditional breakfast foods (eggs, ham, non-vegan biscuits, etc.), my mom always prepares a special vegan breakfast for me — Tofu Scramble, Vegan Biscuits, Gimme Lean Sausage, and White Gravy:

After breakfast, Paul and I hopped in the car for the 4-hour drive to Nashville, where his family was having Xmas dinner. I prepared this Vegan Holiday Ham from Caribbean Vegan the day before and took it on my journey. My seitan-based ham wasn't nearly as pretty as Taymer's, but still tasty:

Paul's mom made mostly meat-based food. There was even bacon in the green beans! But she did save me some plain white taters before mashing the rest with milk and butter (I seasoned mine with soy sauce). And she left the butter out of the green peas just for me. Also, the crescent rolls were accidentally vegan! Here's my plate with veggies, bread, and the sliced holiday ham:

After dinner, Paul's sister's cat Kira helped clean the plates when no one else was looking (okay, except for me):

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Xmas!

I only have two desserts and three appetizers left to test before I'm done testing for my cookbook!! These Holy Molé Chocolate-Chili Cupcakes were one of the few desserts in the home stretch:

I added the cute little one-eyed deer and holly berry toppers for a festive touch. The cupcakes are flavored with a sweet homemade molé sauce made from freshly-ground dried ancho chilis. They're topped with cinnamon buttercream and a sprinklin' of more ancho chili powder for garnish. Just the right touch of spicy and sweet (or naughty and nice).

Hope y'all have a very Merry Xmas!

I Want Candy!

I've gotten used to the fact that I can no longer have candy bars or fancy-schmancy gourmet truffles whenever I want. Sure, I could order overpriced vegan candy bars, and sometimes I do. But those things have become rare treats because shipping is a bitch.

Lucky for me, Stephanie (Poopie Bitch) made me an array of homemade vegan versions of all my conventional candy faves for Christmas! She piled all the treats — at least 10 of each thing — into a big ole gift bag. Unloading each package of chocolates from the bag was so much fun!

On the fancy side, she made some Bourbon Pecan Pie Truffles with Maker's Mark bourbon. These have a complex, sophisticated flavor fit for a Southern Belle (like me!):

I love, love, love coconut, so imagine my surprise when I saw a big bag of these Vegan Coconut Bon Bons. They taste just like a Mounds Bar with its signature, sweetened moist coconut filling:

These Peppermint Bon Bons were like tiny bite-sized York Peppermint Patties:

But my very, very fave are these Peanut Butter Cups!!!! The one candy that I miss the most are Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Seriously. If they were vegan, I'd eat one, like, every day. But honestly, Steph's vegan cups are better than any Reese's cup I remember. I still have a pretty good stash of these left and you can bet your ass that I'll be hoarding them:

Finally, Steph made me a jar of Orange Marmalade. Her husband said it's from his family's secret recipe, and his people are British. I'm pretty sure the Brits know a thing or two about marmalade. I haven't cracked open the jar yet, but I can't wait to spread a little on an English muffin with Earth Balance:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice!

I think I've made it pretty clear that I'm no fan of winter, but I do love the Winter Solstice. Why? Because it signifies the end of the darkness and the return of the light. It might be the official beginning of winter, but after tonight (the longest night of the year), the days grow longer and longer and the nights grow shorter.

Although Winter Solstice was today, we celebrated last night because I had plans with friends tonight. On Solstice, we give the pets their presents. I know I promised both chocolate and pets in my post last night, but there are so many photos of the pets, I've decided to break my vegan chocolate gift from Stephanie and the pets into two posts.

The cats — Akasha, Pandora, Polaris, Gelfling, Ozzy, and Seymour — got a big stocking filled with jingly balls. Here's Polaris and Ozzy basking in the new assortment, which will all inevitably wind up underneath the dresser, oven, or couch in a few days:

Datsun, my only dog, is super smart. He knows how to unwrap his own gifts. Here he is ripping the wrapping paper from his new Nylabone. Beside the bone is his new orange ball — also a Solstice gift — that he's already torn to pieces:

Gelfling tried to eat his new ball made of pressed catnip:

Seymour's favorite gift was the bag of loose catnip, which my boyfriend sprinkled all over the floor:

Here's Seymour a few seconds later, obviously wasted on 'nip:

And Polaris enjoyed the 'nip too. In fact, despite all their new balls (and even a remote control mouse), the cats liked the catnip gift the very best. Apparently, my cats are all stoners ...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Pita Cafe

Over the last six years of my veganism, I'd like to think I've become somewhat of a falafel expert. It sort of comes with the territory. Vegans know hummus, and vegans know falafel. It's just what we do. And having sampled falafel at a gajillion Memphis eateries, I've concluded that the best damn falafel in Memphis comes from Pita Cafe on Park Avenue. Their Falafel and Hummus Wrap is Middle Eastern magic:

Now I know this half-eaten photo of my wrap from tonight isn't the best representation, but I was hungry. I snapped a quick inside shot and quickly devoured the rest. Their falafel is always made to order, so you have to wait a bit. But the wait is so worth it. Besides falafel and a generous amount of hummus, my wrap contained lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, cucumbers, hot pepper relish, and hot sauce. Yum!

Look how big this wrap is! I wish you could see the whole thing in this photo. It's at least a foot long, and I ate every bite.

I met Stephanie (Poopie Bitch), her husband Richard, and their new baby at Pita Wraps tonight to exchange Solstice gifts. They come here so much that the staff knows them by name!

Steph gave me giant bag filled with homemade vegan candy, but I couldn't get a great shot at the table. Come back tomorrow to see Steph's vegan chocolates and ridiculously cute pictures of my pets opening their Solstice gifts.

Pita Cafe is located at 3950 Park Avenue. Call 901-452-1055.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Only Have Nine Fingers

Okay, well I really have all ten digits, but only nine are in use right now. My right index finger is swollen twice its intended size and it won't straighten out. On Friday night, my boyfriend discovered a cat that had apparently been hit by a car lying in our road. It wasn't bleeding, but its back legs were paralyzed. He gently scooped it up and brought it home. While he called the emergency vet, I attempted to calm the cat by petting it.

Bad idea. Obviously, a stray isn't going to be happy about human interaction, especially after being hit by a car. But the cat didn't complain until my nosy dog walked into the room. The cat freaked out and chomped into my hand. It bled, but I didn't think much of it. We surrendered the injured cat to the emergency vet, where they promised to either end the cat's suffering or save it if possible.

The next day, I woke up with a massively swollen index finger. It was bright red and hot to the touch. So I went to the doctor and he confirmed that my finger was infected. It's excruciatingly painful, especially since I'm right-handed. I'm having to learn to use my left for day to day activities until my finger heals. Right now, typing is no easy task.

But I couldn't let a day go by without a post. Here's a few meals I made last week — both testers from my cookbook. There's this Cornbread Pizza topped with TVP, kale, peppers, and squash:

And this Daiya-covered Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Pepper with a simple side of Steamed Sweet Potatoes:

Alright, that's enough typing for tonight. I'm off to soak my hand in epsom salts and then to bed. The moral to this story - don't pet stray, hurt animals. Try to save them, sure. But don't pet them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday High Tea

Admittedly, I have no idea what "high tea" means, but I know it's super-fancy. And when I drink tea, I feel pretty darn sophisticated. I'm not typically a tea drinker. I'm a coffee girl, and I'll have my double-tall cup of dark roast, fair trade java with soy creamer and agave every morning, thank you very much. But each winter, I try to make myself like tea. And every year, I learn more and more about what sorts of tea I like.

Here's what I've learned so far: I like my teas like I like my coffee — strong and full of caffeine. So black teas rule my world, particularly chai tea with soy milk and agave. If I must go with a green tea, I prefer it to be made with matcha powder. And I hate most herbal teas, unless they have a hint of vanilla (like Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Vanilla) or licorice (like Aveda Comfort Tea).

Kungaloosh, a gourmet global tea company, generously sent me two samples of their loose-leaf holiday teas. Thankfully, both fell into my tea "likes". My fave was this Cozy Christmas Tea:

It's a black tea (yea!) with orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon. Sort of like a citrusy chai. I drank it at work with no access to soy milk, but it would have been slightly improved with a splash. Nothing wrong with the tea. That's just how I like my chai. Anyway, this tea smelled and tasted like Christmas in a cup.

They also sent along some Jack Frost Tea:

This is a naturally-flavored vanilla and peppermint ceylon tea. As a fan of vanilla, I fell in love with this one. I also loved the ceylon tea base. It seems like most minty teas fall into the herbal category, and I'm just not down with that. Although ceylon does contain caffeine, I think Jack Frost would be best enjoyed at night in front of a toasty fireplace. A little caffeine at night doesn't affect my sleep at all.

What are your favorite teas?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Down with Winter, Up with Ice Cream!

Okay, okay. Thanks to an anonymous commenter from my last whiny post about the cold weather, I now realize that I don't have it quite so bad. Said commenter reminded me that in some places (like Alberta Canada, for example), -33 is considered cold. And yes, I did mean NEGATIVE 33. I have no idea, nor do I ever want to know, what that must feel like.

Instead, I'll just keep denying the cold weather by eating whatever I want, in season or not. Like these Tofutti Yours Truly cones:

Tofutti sent me some coupons for a few of their new ice cream products, and I immediately rushed to Whole Foods to try them out. Cold weather be damned. I will eat ice cream, and I will eat it year-round. Take that, Winter.

The Yours Truly is a crunchy sugar cone lined with chocolate and packed with vanilla soy cream and then dipped in more chocolate with cookie crumbles. It reminded me of one of those Drumstick cones, which I've not have in ages. I first tried this a few weeks ago when it wasn't quite as cold, so I ate it on my back porch and pretended it was a Drumstick from the ice cream truck. See, isn't denial lovely?

By the way, you should probably know that Tofutti issued a recall on December 10th for some of their Yours Truly cones due to possible milk contamination. I'm not sure if my box was affected and I'm not that worried about it. But if you're a militant vegan or lactose-intolerant, you might wanna wait a while before buying a box.

Tofutti also sent me a coupon for their new Chocolate-Covered Flowers:

These ice cream pops feature edible flower-flavored ice cream covered in rich, dark chocolate. The only edible flowers I've ever tried were pretty tasteless, but this ice cream is quite the opposite. It does have a floral hint, but it tasted more like raspberry to me. The best part is the thin chocolate coating. The dark chocolate had a creamy melt-in-your-mouth texture and just the right balance of bitter and sweet.

I still have one Yours Truly cone left and at least six Chocolate-Covered Flowers pops — plenty to keep me in denial for at least another month of winter.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Garden Fresh In Mid-December

It's freakin' cold here, y'all. Like 34 degrees cold. That might not seem so bad in some parts, but I'm not a fan. I like warm — no, make that sweltering — summer days when the humidity is so high you can barely catch your breath. I like the sunny Saturday mornings at the Memphis Farmers Market when juicy tomatoes and crispy cucumbers are beckoning me from cloth-covered booths.

So despite the subarctic temps (hey, 34 degrees is totally subarctic if you live down South), I braved the cold and rain last Saturday for the special one-time-a-year holiday farmer's market downtown. The holiday market features the same vendors who come to the summer market, which ended in October, but they sell winter produce and crafty holiday gifts. Having not had a farmer's market experience since October (and knowing there won't be another until April), this holiday market was like a shimmering light in the dark, dark tunnel of winter.

I even picked up a few hydroponic tomatoes from MicMac Farms. That was pretty much fate since I needed to test my Raid the Garden Spaghetti one last time for the cookbook's sake:

This homemade veggie-heavy sauce is obviously best made in the height of growing season. However, with cookbook deadlines looming, I had little choice but to test this sauce in frigid December. But thanks to those fresh tomatoes, you wouldn't even know this sauce was made out of season. It tasted like summer!

To really throw my seasons out of whack, I served my pasta with a side of raw Rainbow Kale Salad from 30 Minute Vegan. I just cranked up the heat and the gas fireplace, closed my eyes, and imagined myself in mid-July.

How do you overcome the winter blues? Are you into denial (like me) or do you embrace the cold days?

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Little Hard Work and Determination

Our power went out at the office this morning after a tractor-trailer ran into a utility pole down the block. This is bad news for a newspaper on deadline. Without lights, a wireless internet signal, or phone lines, we were all forced to go back home and work remotely. For some people, that might sound awesome, but I like to be at my desk when I'm working. Lucky for me, the lights came back on around 12:30 p.m., and I was able to go back into the office.

Unfortunately, all that driving back and forth meant losing valuable writing and editing time, and I needed a little encouragement to get through the afternoon. Thankfully, my sample box of the new Intention Cookie flavors from Bountiful Vegan arrived about an hour after I got back to my desk. Look at these yummy new flavors — Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and regular Chocolate Chip:

I've mentioned Bountiful Vegan in several posts (including this recent one about their holiday gift baskets!), but only because I love this company and their cookies! It's indie-owned and the big vegan cookies are made with all-natural ingredients. They're packaged in plant-based compostable materials, and they're magic. Seriously. They really are magic. Each cookie comes with an "intention statement" that you're supposed to repeat (or think) as you eat it and you'll attract positive qualities to your life.

Judging by the day I was having, I figured I could use a little Determination to make it until 5 p.m. The Oatmeal Raisin cookie promised just that:

Did it work? Well, sure. Eating cookies at your desk always makes the work seem less daunting! I was so determined after eating half of this cookie that I decided to eat the other half.

I washed my cookie down with a hot mug of Aveda's Comfort Tea. I'm not usually a fan of caffeine-free, herbal teas, but this licorice root-based tea is absolutely fabulous! My favorite tea in the world!

How do you prefer to work? At home or at the office? What are your favorite desk snacks?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Solstice Comes Early

The solstice doesn't actually occur until next Tuesday, December 21st, but I spent Saturday evening at a pre-Winter Solstice celebration. We honored the promise of the return of the light with a big ole potluck and a "dirty Santa" gift exchange.

I took the opportunity to test out three of my cookbook recipes on the mostly non-veg crowd. For my main course, I lugged in a Crock pot full of my Seitan "Beef" Stew:

Though it's been years since I've had Dinty Moore Beef Stew, I'd like to think my meat-free version tastes sort of like that. My omni boyfriend — a big Dinty Moore fan — thought it tasted pretty authentic, and I got lots of compliments from the meat eaters at the party. One of the few vegetarians there told me it would be a great stand-in for her mom's beef stew, a recipe that she'd always wanted to re-create.

For a side dish, I brought my Nutty Mushroom Quinoa:

Although some of the potluck attendees had never heard of quinoa, I heard nothing but good things about the dish. Score! I love introducing omnis to new healthy vegan foods. My friend Monica kept calling it "your yummy couscous-like stuff."

And for dessert, I made my Pineapple Custard Pie:

The pie still needs a little work, but I got no complaints. I made it with whole wheat pastry flour, and I think it'd be better with all-purpose. My Granny developed this recipe, and I believe she did so with all-purpose. But I'm always experimenting with trying to sub whole wheat pastry flour. Thankfully, the entire pie was gone at the end of the night. I always hate bringing home like half a pie after a potluck because then I've no choice but to eat it all.

Though I was the only vegan there (and one of a couple of vegetarians), the lovely non-veg Wendi made her roasted sweet potatoes vegan so I could eat them, and she brought vegan cookie bars topped with almonds, coconut, and dried cranberries! It helps that her son is allergic to dairy, so Wendi said she often cooks vegan at home. Here's my plate:

Besides my and Wendi's food, I also found some vegan homemade cranberry sauce, yummy Brim's tortilla chips, and a roll. After dinner, we played "dirty Santa" where everyone opens random gifts or steals someone else's gift. I ended up with green tea fragrance oil, an amber-colored rock bracelet, and a big peace sign ring, and my boyfriend scored an iLuv portable iPhone speaker system.

What's your go-to vegan dish when attending a non-vegan potluck? Do you stick with veggie-based mains or do you get your kicks from introducing omnis to new vegan foods, like seitan and quinoa?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Animal Rights

My veganism is strictly ethical. The health benefits are great, but I came to this lifestyle purely from an animal rights standpoint. In fact, it was the animal rights movement that gently pushed (okay, more like shoved) me into veganism in the first place. In 2003, I started attending PETA protests in Memphis. There wasn't a local animal rights movement at the time, but PETA made the occasional stop in Memphis for a naked fur demo or a KFC protest. That was at least a year before I gave up eggs and cheese. I was vegetarian then, but not vegan. I went vegan in 2004 because, after a year or so in the AR movement, I knew it was the right thing to do.

I met a nice local vegan couple at a Memphis PETA protest against animal testing. They were interested in starting an AR group in Memphis, and I volunteered to help them organize. We put up flyers around Midtown and held our first meeting with around five people at a Cooper-Young coffeeshop. Soon we were holding our own weekly KFC demos, circus protests, Petco leafletings, and the like.

We called ourselves MAARA (Memphis Area Animal Rights Activists). Our group grew to about 20 people, but over time, many members moved away. Others suffered from activist burnout. Our little AR group morphed into more of a vegetarian social club. We call ourselves Food Awareness now, and my awesome friend Vaughan organizes our monthly vegan lunches and occasional potlucks.

But last week, a representative from PETA sent me a Facebook message asking if I'd be interested in bringing together a crowd for a Ringling Brothers circus protest. The show opened tonight at the FedExForum, and PETA offered to send a box of all-new flyers, comic books, stickers, and posters. I miss protests. I really do. So I said yes. None of my old animal rights buddies were available though, and I was afraid no one would show up.

But thanks to the wonders of social media, our Facebook invite netted 14 people, many of whom I met for the first time! Here's several of us with our signs:

In case you aren't aware, circuses are responsible to some of the most horrific animal abuses. Elephants, who are naturally intelligent, sensitive creatures, are beaten and prodded with sharp metal bull hooks and shocked with electric prods while being trained to do unnatural tricks. When they're not performing, they're chained by the legs in very cramped, filthy storage barns.

PETA sent us DVDs documenting some undercover Ringling abuse footage, and it's heart-wrenching to watch. I couldn't finish the tail end of the video last night because I was crying so hard. However, I feel it's important for animal rights activists to watch this stuff because it gives us the conviction to go on. It'd be so easy to say, "You know, it's really cold outside and I have a lot going on. I think I'll just skip the protest tonight." But when you see how much these majestic elephants suffer at the hands of their heartless trainers, you realize that a few minutes in the cold is nothing compared to what they go through every single day.

Take a minute to watch PETA's Ringling video. Please.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant

Remember last week when I asked about your favorite "exotic" food? Well, I neglected to tell you mine. I realize the term "exotic" is totally relative, but in Memphis, Ethiopian food is about as exotic as it gets. And thankfully, we have the best Ethiopian joint ever — Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant:

Here's a shot of my overstuffed plate after a trip to Abyssinia's Saturday afternoon buffet. Honestly, I'm not even sure what any of the dishes are called, but I do know that about 95 percent of Abyssinia's buffet is meat-free. They typically have one meat entree and about 9 to 10 veggie offerings. The buffet's only open for lunch throughout the week and on Saturday, but the veggie platter offered at dinnertime has the same dishes that are on the buffet.

There's the tasty red lentil dish and my favorite yellow split pea entree. The cold mung bean salad and mayo-less potato salad are out of this world. There's always some fun veggies, like sauteed spinach, savory cooked cabbage, or roasted carrots and green beans. The rice and noodle dishes are surprisingly good despite the fact that starchy pastas don't always hold up under harsh buffet lights.

But none of the above tastiness would be nearly as delightful if you had to eat it with a boring old fork. That's what the spongy, sourdough-like injera bread is for! Granted, I've never had injera anywhere but Abysinnia, but I'm still certain that theirs is the best. I've even been known to cram any leftover injera into my purse to take home and freeze for later. Yes, I have done that. Don't judge. At least I didn't put tater tots in my pocket.

Abyssinnia Ethiopian Restaurant is located at 2600 Poplar, Suite 115. Call 901-321-0082.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Whole Foods, Not the Store

Y'all know I love processed vegan convenience foods (hello Amy's vegan mac & cheese!) and faux meats (I worship Gardein), but sometimes it does feel pretty good to get back to my healthy roots and eat simple whole foods. I felt pretty darn good about myself after I downed about two cups of my Red Beans & Quinoa at lunch:

Yes, it's another cookbook tester. I promise to be done with these soon. I've showed y'all pics of most of these recipes before. I first featured this Cajun-inspired dish back in June. But, as I've said time and time again, I'm in the hurry-up-and-test-everything-one-last-time phase of cookbook production.

I have to be done testing by the end of the month, and I have big plans for January that involve a purely whole foods diet for 21 days. Today's red beans and quinoa dish, a fun twist on traditional red beans and rice, would qualify for January's whole foods rules. But alas, it's still December and there's plenty of holiday sweets and processed faux meats in my immediate future. Thankfully, I have meals like this one to ground me every once in awhile.

What's your favorite whole foods meal?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bread Puddin' for Breakfast (and a Cookbook Winner!)

Quick post tonight. First, the winner of the Caribbean Vegan cookbook giveaway ... drumroll please ... is Jess of Midwest Vegan!! Jess' favorite "exotic" foods are Indian: " I love savory coconut rice with tofu jalfrezi (three pepper tofu), as well as palak tofu, and veg biryani." But she'll soon be cooking up some Caribbean fare to fill her faraway cravings. Congrats Jess!

I only have one food photo to share tonight, and it's not all that attractive. But it was damn tasty this morning with a cold glass of vanilla almond milk. I made my Chocolate Chip Coconut Bread Puddin' with Vanilla Sauce as a tester for my cookbook:

Bread puddin' is never really very sexy-lookin', but we all know that it tastes far, far better than it looks. Mine has melty chocolate chips, flaky coconut, and soft, sweet chunks of multi-grain bread. Admittedly, not the healthiest breakfast. But in this final stage of testing, I'm having to make more dessert than I can eat as actual dessert. So some of it becomes breakfast, and I'm okay with that.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Not-So-Swedish Meatballs

What we call "Swedish meatballs" down here is actually nothing like the actual Swedish dish, which involves something called lingonberry jam, gravy, and potatoes. The white trash Southern version, often served in Crock Pots at potluck and such, is made with meatballs, bottled chili sauce, and grape jelly. The dish is also commonly referred to as sweet 'n' sour meatballs.

Now I realize chili sauce and grape jelly doesn't sound like something that would work well together. But it really does create a sweet 'n' sour sauce that's somewhat reminiscent of a sweet barbecue sauce. I created these Sweet 'n' Sour Beanballs for my cookbook's appetizer section:

In my recipe, the chili sauce is made from scratch. And I recommend using all-natural grape jelly rather than the high frustose-sweetened crap. I'd tried another version of this recipe several months ago using my recipe for barbecue sauce, but I wasn't happy with it. This version is closer to the original with its chili-spiced sauce and jelly. I served my balls over smoked spelt, but brown rice or pasta would work just as well.

I'd been craving some Steamed Kale with Tahini Sauce and Sriracha for quite a while:

I don't have a standby tahini sauce recipe for kale, but I googled and quickly found this one on Nothing goes better with kale that savory, garlicky tahini sauce and spicy-sweet sriracha. It's hard to imagine how this could possibly be health food. Nine times out of ten, I'd go for kale over ice cream. Seriously.

By the way, the Caribbean Vegan cookbook giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. tonight. I'll announce the winner in Monday night's post.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Am Nacho Mom

I have three food weaknesses — chips, Ramen noodles, and vegan baked goods. No matter how much wholesome food I eat, these three foods find their way into my menu plan every single week. Thankfully, I've got enough discipline these days to only eat chips as part of a meal, not as a snack. For example, I almost always have tortilla chips with veggie burgers and sandwiches.

But chips are even better with dips. I keep several jars of salsa in the fridge at all times, and I often keep homemade vegan noochy cheeze dip on hand as well. That's why I was super-excited about Rick the Health Sleuth's recent Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso giveaway. He was offering some of this all-natural pre-made vegan queso to a lucky reader. I didn't win, but Rick had an extra jar so he sent me one anyway ... just out of the kindness of his heart! I sent Rick a bag of made-in-Memphis Groovy Foods granola in return. Vegan package swaps are the best!

Anyway, let's talk about this dip. Like I said, I usually make my own vegan cheeze dip, and it's tasty. But this Nacho Mom stuff tastes eerily close to the real thing. Granted, I haven't had dairy cheese dip in years, but this is how I remember it. It was the perfect topping for locally-made Las Delicia tortilla chips, but honestly I could just eat this stuff out of the jar with a spoon.

The Nacho Mom's is made with tomatoes, water, nutritional yeast, unbleached flour, green chilis, paprika, salt, garlic powder, and other spices. No weird ingredients. Just real food. The dip does contain citric acid (a natural preservative) and calcium chloride (a natural fining agent), but that it. So I might feel a little guilty about my chips, but at least the dip is healthy.

They sell this stuff on Cosmos Vegan Shoppe for $4.99 a jar, and I have a feeling I'll be buying more as soon as this runs out ... and that won't take long. I also see on their website that the Little Rock, Arkansas Whole Foods will begin carrying this stuff in January (Sheridan, are you reading this?), so I may be making a 2-hour road trip to stock up. Luckily, my BFF Sheridan also lives there so I have another excuse to visit. Not that I wouldn't drive 2 hours for this stuff without another excuse, but that's not very green, right?

One quick non-queso announcement:, a new online eco-friendly, vegan clothing shop is offering Vegan Crunk readers 20 percent off their purchase. They have some really cute tops and accessories, and you can even choose to shop by material (i.e. bamboo, soy, organic cotton, etc.). Use the coupon code "vegan20" for your discount.

And don't forget to enter my Caribbean Vegan cookbook giveaway. Click here for details.

What are your guilty vegan food pleasures?