Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Artisana: A Review & Giveaway
You see, months and months ago I sent Artisana an email asking if I could review a few of their nut butter products on my blog. I couldn't find any Artisana products in Memphis at the time, and I was desperate to try some. I wasn't ready to take a chance and order Artisana coconut butter or nut butters online without trying some first. An Artisana rep agreed to send me a package, but months passed before anything arrived. I'd all but given up, and then finally two weeks ago, I received a mystery package. I ripped it open to reveal this:
A big ole jar of Artisana's new Cashini Butter (that's cashew and tahini), coconut butter, coconut oil, and raw Cacao Bliss (coconut chocolate butter):
And wait ... that's not all. There was also this:
These are single-serving Artisana go-packs! They're new, and I suppose Artisana was holding out so I could review their newest line of products. These convenient packs are so handy for packin' a lunch or a road trip snack. Throughout the past week, I've tried one of each go-pack on bagels and toast. My favorite was the Walnut Butter:
This stuff tastes exactly like eating straight-up walnuts schmeared on toast! I actually tried adding strawberry jam to my first batch of walnut butter and toast, but the jam masked the delicate flavor of the walnuts. I quickly determined that raw nut butters are best enjoyed unadorned.
Tying for a close second fave was the Pecan Butter and the Macadamia Butter, both of which I ate on a whole grain bagel:
Though not pictured, I enjoyed a generous schmear of the new Cashini Butter on some homemade whole wheat bread, and it was melt-in-my-mouth amazing. The delicate flavor of the cashews is the perfect complement to the sturdy tahini flavor. This stuff would make some damn fine hummus.
During the time it took Artisana to get the samples to me, my Whole Foods started selling the coconut butter. They still don't sell their raw nut butters, but at least it's a start. I knew this raw Cacao Bliss was going to be amazing, and I was right. What's better than raw coconut combined with raw cacao? Yep, nothing:
Since I can now purchase Artisana raw coconut butter in Memphis, I thought it'd be nice if I used the eight-ounce jar they sent for a fun giveaway!
For a chance to win, leave me a comment at the end of this post about your favorite way to use coconut butter. Feel free to reference Katie's post for hints. If you'd like to double your chances, tweet about the giveaway (and link back) and let me know you did in a second comment. If you want to triple your chances, post a link on Facebook and leave yet another comment for a total of three entries (comments) per person.
I'll leave the contest open until next Tuesday night at 10 p.m. (CST). And if you're not a blogger who can easily be reached through your blog, please leave an email address where I can contact you if you win. I'll randomly select the winner. Good luck!
Monday, August 30, 2010
Guest Post: Katie's Coconut Butter Party
Katie was one of my first regular commenters on Vegan Crunk way back in 2007. She really helped me get my new bloggy feet off the ground, and her blog has always served as an inspiration. Tonight Katie is taking over my blog and tomorrow, I'm taking over hers. Why? No reason. We wanted to try a little post-trading just for fun.
Note: Pay close attention to Katie's post. Tomorrow, I'll be hosting a fun giveaway and you just might be able to gather some clues from her post. Hint, hint. Come back on Tuesday night/Wednesday for details, and check out my guest post about dining out, vegan-style on Katie's blog on Tuesday. And without further ado, here's Katie!
Greetings, fellow Crunks and Crunkettes! (What the heck is a crunkette???) I’m so honored to be on Bianca’s bloggie, as it is one of my absolute favorites!
My name is Katie, and I follow the Chocolate-Covered Diet philosophy.
However, the topic of today’s post is not chocolate; it’s coconut butter. Bianca and I share an affinity for this special spread, whose taste is reminiscent to shortbread. But unlike shortbread, coconut butter is 100% raw and organic, with healthy fats and no added sugar. The only ingredient is coconut! Buttery, melty, and oh-so versatile. My numero uno favorite way to indulge is straight up, with nothing standing between me and my coconut-butter goodness. However, if I have to invite other guests to the party, here are some good ones:
First up, we have the easiest-ever Raw Macaroons.
I have a friend who said she’d give me her first-born child in exchange for a batch of these every now and then. Sadly for her, I declined. What would I do with a whiney, crying baby anyway? I’d much rather have my Raw Macaroons .
Artisana coconut butter is amazing icing. You can use it on raw Carrot Cake (above).
I adore slathering it on carrot cake pancakes and cupcakes!
And then there are always the Mounds Bar Pancakes.
Chocolate and coconut were meant to be together.
Moving on to simpler ideas: the incredibly-creamy Coconut Banana Butter.
Coconut + bananas = heaven in a spoonful.
Other uses for Artisana Coconut Butter:
1. Turn into a melty frosting for healthy 24-Carrot Cake Cupcakes
2. Drizzle on butternut fries or spaghetti squash
3. Use in place of peanut butter in peanut-sauce recipes! (Thai coconut-sauce pasta, anyone?)
4. Mix into oatmeal (or blended grains)
5. Blend in a smoothie, or spread on a banana or toast (Can I interest you in a coconut butter sammie?)
6. Use as a healthy “syrup” for carrot cake pancakes
Check out this post: Coconut is the new Ketchup!
Question of the Day:
Have you tried coconut butter? If so, what’s your favorite way to eat it? Are you as obsessed as I am, or do you not understand what the big deal is?
Like I said above, my favorite way to eat it is straight-up… like coconut fudge! But I don’t think I’ve yet found a single way of eating coconut butter that I don’t absolutely love.
Thanks again, Bianca, for allowing me to take over your blog for the day!
Love (and chocolate),
Chocolate-Covered Katie (or coconut-covered Katie, as the case may be)
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Across India in 80 Minutes
Disclaimer: I didn't inquire as to the vegan-ness of most of these foods. I know much Indian food contains ghee (clarified butter) and I typically ask at restaurants, but the environment at India Fest was a little hectic. I'm not super-worried about accidentally eating some ghee, but I did stay away from foods that I know are usually prepared with ghee, like naan.
Here I am, ready for my culinary tour of India. Check out my bindhi — they gave these to all the girls as we entered the door:
And I was joined by fellow vegans Stephanie, Richard, and their new baby Peter (he's all wrapped up in the baby sling, so Steph would have her hands free to stuff her face):
My first stop was the booth for the state of Karnataka, where I sampled Ambode with Peanut Sauce. These reminded me of falafels, and the sauce was fantastic:
After eating the amode balls, I made a b-line for the Maharashtra booth. They had a number of yummy-sounding treats, but I'd heard great things about their Vada Pav. Vada Pav are balls of mashed garlic potatoes, deep-fried and served on a tiny bun with cilantro sauce and tamarind sauce. This may have been my favorite thing I ate:
Next I stopped at a snack tent, selling water, sodas, and these crunchy Murka sticks. There wasn't a sign for what state these came from. They're crispy, spicy noodles made from rice flour:
At the same booth, I also bought a Ladoo ball — a sweet deep-fried ball made from lentils, sugar, and nuts. It reminded me of a cross between a cake donut and a funnel cake:
Richard was craving his favorite Indian treat — Samosas. And we found some exceptionally-yummy ones at a booth for Swagruha Foods (a local Indian market). In case you don't know, samosas are deep-fried mashed potatoes and peas. At the same booth, I spotted some deep-fried chili peppers called Mirchi Bhaji. Both were super yummy dipped in sweet tamarind sauce:
By this point, I was pretty full, but I realized that I'd only eaten deep-fried snacks. I wanted something of substance to keep me satisfied for hours. So I opted for the Veggie Stew with Appam and Lemon Pickle at the booth for the state of Kerela:
I purchased the stew without looking at it, and when I got my plate, I kind of freaked out because it looked like it contained milk (though I may not worry about ghee, I can't eat something that's super-obviously not vegan). But thankfully, it was just coconut milk. The rich, creamy stew of potatoes and carrots was perfect poured over my appam (an Indian flatbread made from rice flour).
After filling up, I wandered over into the shopping area to purchase some bindhis and look at the sari selection. I spotted a booth for Bombay Salon where they were offering free henna! So of course, I got in line. Here's my fresh henna before it was dry. Please ignore my flaking nail polish:
And here's an after picture (note: I fixed my nails too):
Sorry for the super-long post, but I ate a crap-ton of food at India Fest! Also, I'd like to address an anonymous commenter from my last post who requested that I give up some recipes now and then. I've actually posted several from my book in the past. But now that I have a contract, I'm not sure if my publisher will allow me to divulge anymore. Many publishers place restrictions on giving out recipes that will be in the book. I'll check, and if I'm allowed, I'll post a teaser very soon.
Until then, here are a few links to cookbook recipes already on the blog. I didn't tag them well when I originally posted them, so I'm going on memory here. There may be more hidden within the blog, but these are the ones that I can remember for now.
Sample recipes: Cheeze Eggs, Tofu Deviled Eggy Bites, Whole Wheat Beer Bread, Chocolate Gravy (for your biscuits and such), and Country Potato Soup (as featured on the Crazy Sexy Life blog).
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Gardein + Sweet P Fries + Broccoli
Despite the high price tag of $4.99 per bag of 10 strips, Seven-Grain Gardein Crispy Tenders fill the hole in my little vegan heart. Whatever was missing from my life before is completely fulfilled thanks to these little munchkins:
Don't you just wanna squeeze his little mock meat cheeks and dip him in maple-Dijon sauce? That's exactly what I did. But I found the Gardein flavor so appealing, I abandoned the sauce and consumed the other two strips naked (they were naked, not me!).
But enough with the Gardein gushing. On the side, I tried deep-frying a batch of my Curried Sweet Potato Fries:
I've been tweaking this recipe for my cookbook and my original instructions called for baking. But sweet tater fries (or any fries, really) don't get crispy enough in the oven for me. So I'm adding frying instructions to the recipe. But I'll also leave in a baking alternative for those who'd prefer not to fry.
I also tested my Spicy Citus Broccoli Salad again:
This cold salad is a refreshing way to enjoy lightly steamed broccoli on hot summer days. It's spiced with red pepper flakes, sriracha, and a hint of lemon. Plus, it kinda makes up for the fact that I fried the hell out of my nutritious sweet potatoes, right? Here's the whole plate:
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
That being said, I was intrigued by a pork chop recipe in one of my mom's old spiral-bound church-style cookbooks awhile back. It called for chops to be cooked with a sweet 'n' savory tomato-based sauce and green bell peppers. Since anything can be improved with a little veganization, I took it upon myself to make a better dish using tempeh marinated in a pork-like marinade and a tastier homemade sauce. That was in the spring of 2009, and it turned out so well that I'm using it for my cookbook.
I tested my Tangy Tempeh Chops with Green Peppers again tonight:
While some recipes need major improvements upon re-testing, this one was pretty much spot-on. I musta got it right the first time. The stewed tomatoes and hearty bell pepper chunks are the perfect complement to the mild, sauteed tempeh strips and sweet sauce. I served the dish with brown rice and a small side salad.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Let's start with Voracious Vegan's "Souljourn for World Hunger." If you follow Tasha's awesome blog, you're probably already in on this one, but hear me out. Back in the spring, the lovely Tasha lived on 1,000 calories or less (all consumed in one simple evening meal) for seven days in an effort to bring awareness to the plight of the world's 1.2 billion chronically hungry people. During the seven days, she also spent her time researching the whys and hows of world hunger. Read about her journey here.
Now Tasha and Kendra Swartz Pepper of the Conducive Chronicle are asking others to join them on their next Souljourn. Beginning in October, participants may choose to live on minimal calories for anywhere from 7 to 21 days. If you're interested in helping, click through to Tasha's Souljourn post to sign up.
During her last Souljourn, Tasha discovered that the planet actually produces more than enough food to feed its inhabitants. The problem is unfair distribution. Here's what she had to say:
1 out of every 6 human beings alive does not have enough food to survive. The most heartbreaking thing of all is that it does not have to be this way. This chronic hunger is not caused by famine or lack of food; in fact we grow more than enough food to sustain everyone. According to Food First, our planet produces enough for each person on earth to have 4.3 pounds of food every day; 2.3 lbs of grains, beans, and nuts, 1 lb of fruits and vegetables, and 1 lb of meat, eggs, and dairy products. That is more than 3,500 calories per person per day, a generous amount of food that everyone could survive on. And despite what many people think, emergencies account for less than 8 percent of hunger’s victims. Chronic hunger is therefore not a matter of lack of food or natural disasters; it is a matter of unequal and unfair distribution of food.Will Vegan Crunk be taking part? Unfortunately no. Though I'd love to bring attention to this issue through a Souljourn of my own, I have only a few months to finish my cookbook. The manuscript is due in January, and I can't take any time off from testing now. But if another Souljourn occurs after my deadline, I'm all in. I felt like linking back to Tasha's post was the least I could do for now.
In other global news, I wanted to let my Mid-Southern readers know about India Fest this weekend at the Agricenter at 7777 Walnut Grove. India Fest runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 28th.
This annual tribute to all things Indian will feature a ton of yummy vegetarian and vegan foods from the various states of India. Of course, there's some meat too, but we don't care about that, right? Participants can walk from booth to booth, each representing a different Indian state, sampling foods from every region.
If you're not local but wish you could go, never fear. I'm toting my camera along and I'll be posting about my Indian food finds on Sunday night.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Where'd All the Crowder Peas Go?
Does anyone know what's up with the lack of pea varieties in the Mid-South this year? We've had a way hot summer with temps in the 100s for almost a month. Could that be the culprit? Anyway, I ended up settling on a bag of shelled purple hull peas to test my Harvest Crowder Pea Soup for my cookbook:
They cook up in the same amount of time, so I think it's fine to test this recipe with purple hulls. And I guess now I can give people the option in the recipe of either crowder peas or purple hulls. If you could bottle late summer and pour it into a bowl, this soup is what it would taste like. Nothing says August to me like a fresh bowl of peas.
Soup isn't a meal without bread, so I decided to give my gently-used, new-to-me bread machine another try. Remember what happened last time? My whole wheat bread totally sank. But I took all your advice from the comments, and look what happened:
Whole wheat bread success! I subbed out whole wheat bread flour for regular whole wheat flour and I added a tablespoon and a half of vital wheat gluten flour. I also stuck around the house during the four hours of the bread machine cycle so I was ready to remove the bread as soon as it was done. Last time, I let the machine kick off while I was at work and left the bread in for several hours. This soft, wheat bread was perfect schmeared with Earth Balance and garlic powder.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
The Botanic Gardens hosts these outdoor shows once a month on their lush, sprawling grounds. My friends and I go to most of the shows, and we always pack a picnic and a bottle of vino. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my Nikon into the show because there was a 30 percent chance of rain, so all I had was my iPhone camera. It takes good shots sometimes, but not when it's getting dark ... as it was in this shot of Nathan's plate:
In the center are my Butter Bean Bruschetta, a recipe going in my cookbook. On the upper left corner of the plate, you can barely see the vegan ranch dip underneath those carrots. That recipe is also going in my book. Greg's tahini-less hummus is in the bottom right. And not pictured is Nathan's creamy avocado dip. We scooped up all those dips with crudite and tortilla chips while we sipped on blush wine.
Just for fun, we took pictures of each other with my Hipstamatic app for the iPhone. This app makes photos look like they were taken in the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s (this may be my favorite app!). Here's hipstamatic Nathan with a mouth full of food:
And hipstamatic Greg, also in the act of chewing (not sure why I took everyone's photo while they were eating):
And here I am with my plate, about to stuff my face as usual:
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Until then, I present you with my quickie version of the savory stuffed treat — my Hot Tamale Pie:
It's yet another recipe I'm testing for my cookbook (told y'all I was steppin' up this cookbook game, right?). I've made it once before, but I made too much filling for a 9-inch pie pan. This time, I used a 10-inch pan and lessened the ratios of ingredients. It's not as fancy as a tamale, but it satisfies when you don't have all day to spend in the kitchen.
Though tamales originated in Latin America, they also have strong Southern roots. The Mississippi Delta (the area along the river from Memphis down to Vicksburg, Miss.) is often referred to as the Tamale Trail, thanks to an abundance of tamale stands and diners serving up the Southern version of the traditional Latin treat. Why is this? There are several theories. Some say migrant workers who worked the cotton fields with African American slaves back in the day shared their foodways. Other theorize that U.S. soldiers from Mississippi brought back tamale recipes after traveling to Mexico during the U.S.-Mexican War.
While Mexican tamales are made with masa, most Southern folks make theirs with cornmeal, which lends the tamale a grittier, polenta-like texture. In keeping with Southern tradition, my pie features a cornmeal-based, polenta-like crust and topping. I gotta keep it real.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Long ago, I developed my Some Like It Hot 'n' Spicy T.L.T. Sandwich for my upcoming cookbook, but in testing it again tonight, the amount of heat called for sounded too mild for a "spicy" sandwich. So I upped with the sriracha measurements in the tofu marinade a little, but it can still be prepared as mild as you'd like if you can't take the heat:
As you can see, the "T' in my "T.L.T." is tofu. I know tempeh bacon makes a great sandwich, but everybody does that. I like fat, smoky, marinated, sauteed slices of tofu instead. Oh, and I add avocado, Vegenaise, and extra sriracha because that's just how you do.
Because I can't get enough of the spicy-spicy, I served my sammich with Jalepeno Tortilla Chips made by Food Should Taste Good:
Despite the name and bright-red color, the chips weren't really all that spicy, so I dipped them in Frog Ranch Chipotle Salsa. Needless to say, my nose was running throughout the entire meal ... but it was so, so worth it.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Stirfryday (on Wednesday)
But the Sanssouci house (a cooperative house of hippie vegans) is no more, and the monthly stir-fry party has moved to the DeCleyre Cooperative, another collective of grassroots activist hippie kids. The DeCleyre house (located in the University District) has been around since 1998 and was founded as a vegetarian/anarchist household. They have an awesome collection of zines and progressive books, and the place was named after Voltarine DeCleyre, one of the most badass anarchist ladies of all time (except for Emma Goldman, of course!).
Anyway, DeCleyre hosted a Stirfryday event/rock show this past weekend. Here's the menu:
You get one of four choices of tofu and a choice of curry paste. That's sauteed with fresh veggies and served over sticky white rice. Matt Kime, a former Sanssouci resident, did the cookin' on Friday night:
Look how sweaty?! You see, DeCleyre doesn't have A/C, and it was about 100 degrees on Friday night. Though I don't typically approve of shirtless dudes cookin' my food, I can understand when it's a million degrees out.
Here's my finished plate:
I chose sesame tofu and massaman curry paste, and I washed it all down with an ice-cold pint of Magic Hat #9. We couldn't stay for the rock show though. It was just too darn hot!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Bluff City Vegan Eats: Deja Vu Creole Soul Food & Vegetarian Restaurant
Deja Vu has hands-down the largest selection of vegan options on any menu in the city. Although they do serve meat, the soul food joint offers about 15 vegan entrees and all the traditional Southern sides are vegan. You won't find any ham hocks in these collard greens and the candied yams are delightfully marshmallow-free. The vegan entrees range from soul food stuff like barbecue tofu cubes to pasta dishes and fried veggie-filled "egg" rolls. BTW, I love this place so much that my profile pic (the one on the right) was taken at Deja Vu over a plate of barbecue tofu.
This Portabella and Sundried Tomato Pasta is one of my faves:
The savory sundried tomatoes and meaty mushrooms give the dish a crazy-hearty flavor. It's a little difficult to stop eating when you're full because it's that freakin' good. I snapped this photo a few months ago at Deja Vu's downtown location.
Deja Vu's humble original location has been open for over a year on Florida Street in downtown Memphis. It's a teensy little place with only six or seven tables. Folks crowd in for lunch and typically have to wait for an available seat. But the second sprawling Hickory Hill location is HUGE with a private room for meetings. I believe the place used to house an O'Charley's. I finally had a chance to check out the new digs at our Food Awareness (the local vegetarian club) monthly meeting on Saturday.
I ordered this delicious Spinach and Mushroom Quesadilla:
It's a newer menu item and I was so surprised to see that it contains vegan cheese! It's especially difficult to find restaurant food in Memphis with vegan cheese. I'm not sure what they used, but it's a toss-up between Tofutti Mozzerella or Follow Your Heart Monterey Jack (don't you love playing "guess-the-vegan-cheese"?). Also stuffed inside the grilled tortilla are spinach, portabella mushrooms, and some Creole-style spices.
Almost everyone else at my table (Stephanie, Lindsey, and Jordan) ordered the Veggie Tacos:
These are stuffed with TVP and taco sauce and served with lettuce, tomato, and salsa. I was actually way too engrossed in my yummy quesadilla to ask how these were.
Other Deja Vu favorites include the Mock Chicken Salad Sandwich (which I first blogged about here), made with TVP and vegan mayo:
And I LOVE the curry tofu cubes! Not all the vegan entrees come with sides (the quesadilla does not), but when I get to choose sides, I typically spring for the grilled cabbage, navy beans, smothered okra, or green beans and carrots. I noticed on the new menu that they also offer fried plantains as a side dish too! When I have room for dessert (which is pretty much never), I opt for the vegan banana nut bread. But someday I plan to try the vegan chocolate cake with strawberry sauce.
Deja Vu Creole Soul Food & Vegetarian Restaurant has two locations: 936 S. Florida St. (901-942-1400) and 3557 Ridgeway Rd. (901-590-2221).