Monday, February 28, 2011

Down On the Farm (Part 2)

I'm back again with more photos from this weekend's vegan retreat at the Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. For more on the Farm, an intentional community of vegans, vegetarians, and environmentally-minded hippies, read yesterday's post. In a nutshell, I was invited to demo a few of the recipes from my upcoming Southern vegan cookbook, which is being published by the Book Publishing Company at the Farm.

But before I went on, I was able to watch lots of other demos by some of my vegan heroes. I blogged about Friday's opening night dinner last night, but tonight's post will focus on the activities between breakfast and lunch on Saturday.

Breakfast began at Douglas' house immediately after our 7 a.m. yoga session. We had deliciously-moist, berry-pecan muffins (which Douglas demonstrated), Soysage (made in Nashville), and the Farm's amazing plain soy yogurt (made onsite) with nuts, raisins, and raw granola (also demo'd by Douglas):

After breakfast, Douglas showed us how to make his AMAZING raw crackers, a recipe I will most definitely be recreating. Then we caravaned over to Tofu Queen Louise Hagler's house, where she demonstrated how to make Papadzules from the Yucatan Peninsula. Louise has been in Mexico for a while, helping another cook veganize Mexican recipes, and this was one of her experiments. Here's Louise showing us raw pepitas:

Here's Louise talking about tomatoes (I think):

And here's the finished product. Well, half of it. Since we'd be eating all day, we each got half of a corn tortilla filled with fried tofu and topped with a toasted pepita sauce, homemade tomato sauce, and habenero sauce. This was delicious. The pepita sauce gave it such a wonderful flavor:

Afterward, I just had to get Louise to sign an updated version of her fabulous Tofu Cookery:

Next, we headed to Barb Bloomfield's house (where Paul and I spent the night) for a vegan dessert demo. Barb showed us how to make these delicious vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies. They were so good, the cookies in this jar went fast!

Then, Barb took a healthy turn and demonstrated Raw Chocolate Tarts with Cashew Cream. She let us create our own tarts and pipe the chocolate-avocado and cashew cream onto them with pastry bags. Barb is the lady in green holding the pastry bag:

Here's my tart! Delicious!

Next, Barb's husband Neal talked about growing wheat grass. Then the only kid in the workshop got to grind the wheat grass so we could all do shots:

Finally, we retreated back to Douglas' for lunch. After breakfast, he showed us how to make tamales with masa, a vegan sausage-spiked tamale sauce, and fresh salsa. As you can see, I loaded mine with salsa:

There were a few more demos and a walk through the Farm post-lunch, but I had to skip those so I could prepare for my 2 p.m. cooking demo. Check back tomorrow for pics of my class and Chef Alan Roettinger's demo.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Down On the Farm (Part 1)

This past Saturday, my boyfriend Paul and I road-tripped over to Summertown, Tennessee for a vegan retreat at the Farm. I was asked to lead a cooking demo there on Saturday, nestled between demos by the legendary tofu queen Louise Hagler and Speed Vegan Chef Alan Roettinger! Needless to say, I was honored to be included in such an awesome group of vegan cooks. The Book Publishing Company, located on the Farm, is publishing my Southern vegan cookbook later this year.

In case you've never heard of the Farm, it's a community of vegans and vegetarians who've been living on several thousand acres of land in middle Tennessee since the early 1970s. The original Farmies traveled to Tennessee from San Francisco in a caravan of school buses in 1971. In the mid- to late-70s, the Farm became a destination for progressives looking to practice the principle of nonviolence and shared respect for Mother Earth. The above photo is an aerial view of the Farm that I borrowed from the their website.

Today, a handful of the original settlers (and a few newbies) still live on the Farm. They make their own tofu and soy yogurt, and the on-site publishing company puts out amazing vegan cookbooks (think Tofu Cookery, the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, Sweet Utopia, etc.). They have an awesome solar-powered school for Farm kids, and many members grow their food in community gardens. I could write all day about place, but I've got a blog post to do. So if you want to learn more, check out the Farm's website.

The vegan retreat began on Friday night at Douglas' house. Douglas has lived on the Farm since its early days, and he organized the retreat. We met at his place for an opening night supper, and Paul and I arrived just minutes before the meal was served (good timing!). We started the meal with a glass of Douglas' homemade Blueberry Wine:

Douglas' daughter Leah helped prepare two delicious soups — Butternut Squash Soup and Creamy Potato Chowder:

Here's my plate with the potato soup, a baked sweet potato, one amazing raw cracker, and some cornbread made from ground corn that Douglas grew in his own garden:

After dinner, Douglas brought out Ice Bean!! There's a soft-serve Ice Bean soy cream machine at the Farm, and members fill up tubs to bring home. Maybe it's because it's homemade, but Ice Bean tastes better than any other ice cream I've ever had.

He had chocolate and orange-vanilla, and he served it tiny little ice cream cones. How cute are these?!

After dinner, Paul and I drove over to cookbook author Barb Bloomfield's house (she wrote Fabulous Beans and Soup's On), where we retired early in one of her guest rooms.

I took a crap ton of photos at the retreat, so I'll be splitting these up into three installments. Check back tomorrow for pictures of Louise Hagler's cooking demo!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Appetite for Tempeh and Taters

My BFF Sheridan gave me Isa's new Appetite for Reduction book for Christmas. But since I got soooo many new cookbooks this holiday, I'm just now getting around to this one. I immediately loved the concept as soon as I heard about it — delicious low-fat recipes concocted with a little Isa magic. Can't go wrong there.

I have a massive to-make list from the book, but for some reason, this Red Wine & Kalamata Olive Tempeh called to me first. I love that whole umami flavor profile, and this savory, salty tempeh totally has that goin' on:

The tempeh is marinated in a mixture of red wine, kalamata olives, and herbs, and then it's pan-fried in the marinade. I love cooking with red wine because you must drink a glass as you cook. A little for the tempeh, a little for me.

In the book, Isa suggests serving the tempeh with her lower-cal version of mashed potatoes — Caulipots. I made the garlic-herb variety:

They may look like ordinary mashed taters, but there's about half a head of cauliflower mushed in there. You can't really even taste it though. The cauliflower adds nutrition and bulk to the taters with less starch and calories. I probably should have made gravy too, but I didn't. And honestly, the caulipots were just fine on their own.

Also peeking in the background are my Granny's homemade rape greens, thawed from the freezer and seasoned with hot sauce and lots of greens seasoning salt.

Have any of you made anything from Appetite for Reduction yet? If so, what?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Support Your Local Brewery!

When it comes to craft beer in Memphis, only one name matters — Ghost River. This relatively new, totally-local brewery creates tasty handcrafted beer sold exclusively in Memphis bars and restaurants. It's so local, they even source their water from Memphis' famous super-clean aquifer, which recharges from the Ghost River. FYI: I've actually canoed the Ghost River (and we had a keg of Ghost River beer for the trip)! Here's a shot I took last summer on the river:

In case you didn't know, Memphis has some of the cleanest soft tap water in the country! We scoff at folks who drink bottled water or use filters down here. It may be the Dirty South, but we have damn clean water.

Good water makes for great beer, as evidenced by Ghost River's delicious brews. They offer free tours of their tiny downtown facility every Saturday, so a group of my friends made reservations last weekend. Here's Tyler, my friend Shara's partner and an employee at Ghost River. He passed out the free beer samples during the tour:

Here's Chuck Skypeck, head of brewing operations, standing in front of the giant tanks used to make the beer. He was giving the tour group a speech about Memphis water:

The first sample we tried was Ghost River Golden. I'm not typically a fan of light beers, but the Golden is tasty. I'd tried it at bars before, but it's so much fresher enjoyed on-site:

Here's Shara — Tyler's girlfriend — enjoying her sample:

We sampled the Golden, the Glacial Pale Ale, the Copperhead Red, and the seasonal Oatmeal Stout. Guess which beer I loved the most?

Yep, the stout. I like my beers like I like my coffee — strong and black. Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout will ALWAYS have my heart, but the Ghost River version is a close, close second. I purchased a growler of oatmeal stout for the road.

For now, Ghost River beer is only available on draft at Memphis bars (or in growlers at the brewery), but they're planning to expand their capacity to allow for bottling soon. If you're ever in Memphis, schedule a free Saturday tour of Ghost River. It's free and you get to try the beers.

Also, you can find Ghost River on draft at multiple locations. Click here for a complete list. Some of my fave places to order Ghost River are the Blue Monkey Midtown, the Pumping Station, the Young Avenue Deli, and the Trolley Stop Market.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Hi-Tone Cafe

I know Daiya vegan cheese has been making appearances in pizzerias in major cities across the country for, like, forever. But Memphis is always a few steps behind. We've had vegan cheese offered at our Mellow Mushroom in nearby Germantown for a few months, but Midtowners like me have to drive 45 minutes to get there.

Enter the Hi-Tone Cafe. This rock club features shows by local and national touring acts nearly every night of the week. It's the kind of music the cool kids like (indie rock, hipster music), so naturally, it's not really my scene for shows. But the Hi-Tone also serves food, and they've just begun offering Daiya vegan cheese for their delicious, massive homemade pies. Just last week, some friends/co-workers and I ordered this Veggie Pizza with Vegan Cheese:

Damn, was this pie tasty. The kitchen is super-generous with the Daiya and it's piled with veggies like mushrooms, spinach, etc. After ordering, we realized that we could have added veggie burger to the pizza for an additional charge. Oh well. Next time.

Here's Hannah and Ashley, ready to dig in:

Hannah's newly vegan, and Daiya is the first vegan cheese she's tried. She said she loved it immediately. My first vegan cheese was nasty old Vegan Rella back in 2004 (sorry Rella, but you weren't that tasty). Teese and Daiya truly revolutionized vegan cheese. As for Ashley, well, she isn't vegan, and she still loved the pizza. She said she'd order it again, even if she wasn't dining with vegans.

The Hi-Tone also serves Sunday brunch, and they typically offer some sort of vegan special. Some days, that means tofu scramble. Other days, that means vegan pancakes. I'd recommend you call first on brunch day though, just to make sure they have a vegan option. Here's a tofu scramble platter (with lots of taters, asparagus, and toast) that I ordered on a past Sunday brunch:

They also have homemade veggie burgers on the regular dinner menu, but I've never tried them. It's hard to order a burger when there's vegan cheese pizza available.

The Hi-Tone is located at 1913 Poplar Ave. Call 901-278-8663. Click here for their menu.

Monday, February 21, 2011

She's My Cherry Pie

... cool drink of water, such a sweet surprise. Tastes so good, make a grown (wo)man cry. Sweet cherry pie, yeah. I've had Warrant in my head all day, and now it's in yours. You're welcome.

Why am I stuck on Warrant? Because it's President's Day, the day before
George Washington's birthday. And popular American myth tells us that our first prez chopped down a cherry tree, only to be overridden with guilt later. So he narced himself out to his daddy.

To honor this classic American attempt to encourage honesty, my mom bakes a cherry pie every President's Day. Its a fairly new tradition, I think. I certainly don't remember her doing that when I was a kid. But I've decided to follow in my mama's footsteps and bake a vegan cherry pie every Prez Day. Lucky for me, the recipe o' the month in Sarah Kramer's Go Vegan 2011 wall calendar is for Like a Virgin Cherry Pie:

Yes, that's a Madonna reference. Get it? Cherries, virgins. Kramer's even dressed as Madonna from the Like a Virgin album cover. Here's the real Madonna. Kramer is just as cute.

As for the pie, it was delicious. Old George woulda been proud. I did have to sub cherry pie filling for the fresh cherries in the recipe since they aren't in season here. Because of that, I used too much filling and it overflowed during the first half of baking time. But the coconut/walnut/sugar crumble topping (yes, it's as amazing as it sounds) doesn't go on until the last 30 minutes, so it was no problem to scoop out the overflow. Unfortunately, that did make the outside crust a little messy.

But hey, who cares about a messy pie when it's delicious? I brought this to work, and it was quickly devoured by my co-workers. Happy birthday, Georgey!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy 32nd Birthday, Nathan!

My best friend Nathan celebrated his 32nd birthday Saturday night, but the festivities were bittersweet. You see, the birthday party was also a going-away party. Nathan's moving to North Carolina for a job in a week! We've been friends since I was in college, at least 11 years ago!

Nathan and I met in my hometown — Jonesboro, Arkansas. I moved to Memphis after college and Nathan followed a couple years later. I love Memphis for all its grittiness, but Nathan hasn't been happy here. He prefers the small town life, and he's elated to be moving back to the country. Unfortunately, this means Nathan will be about 10 hours away from me!

Anyway, Nathan had his birthday/going-away party at Three Angels Diner, a kitschy cafe in the Broad Avenue Arts District. I've reviewed the place before, and they have quite a few delicious vegan options. Our waitress was even vegan!

Perhaps my favorite vegan item on the menu is this Mock Egg Salad Sandwich made with tofu, vegan mayo, and grilled crusty bread:

Sandwiches come with homemade chips, and they're super-yummy. But I was having a fat day Saturday, and we were eating dinner very late. So I opted to sub my chips out for one of the many veggies-of-the-day (most all of which are prepared vegan). I went with the sauteed zucchini and roasted red pepper side.

My boyfriend and I also split the restaurant's last overflowing bowl of vegan Broccoli & Cauliflower Soup:

Nathan requested that I make Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Glaze:

The cupcake recipe is my basic stand-by from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but I veganized this recipe from for the caramel glaze. At first, I tried the Brown Rice Caramel Glaze from Isa's cupcake book, but my soymilk powder was apparently expired.

I wasted a whole cup of brown rice syrup before realizing the soymilk powder had gone rancid. My only other option was to scour the internet. Luckily, the recipe I found was easily veganized and delicious.

Happy 32nd Birthday, Nathan! I'll miss you, boo!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stylin' and Profilin' with Betty Crocker

I just love Meet the Shannons! If you haven't discovered this fabulous blog yet, get thine ass over there now. Bloggers Annie and Dan use the blog to showcase their veganized versions of Betty Crocker's finest recipes. I have a massive to-make list compiled from the drool-worthy posts on their blog, and I finally got around to making one last night. This Crunchy Vegan Asian Chicken Salad:

It features my all-time favorite food in the universe — Ramen noodles!!! The crunchy noodles are fried up in a little Earth Balance and some sesame oil (no, this isn't a low fat recipe ... and no, I do not care), along with Morningstar Farms chicken strips and sesame seeds. Then it's all tossed with broccoli slaw, green onions, mandarin oranges, and a homemade sesame dressing. And of course, I spiced mine with loads of sriracha. Just damn delicious. Make this. Please.

Oh, and that's a steamed wheat bun peeking out from the back of the plate. I purchase those at my neighborhood Vietnamese market and keep 'em in my freezer at all times.

On another note, the adorable Kelly Paloza, author of the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur and blogstress at Seitan Beats Your Meat, and the super-talented baking whiz Glauce of All About (Vegan) Food, both passed me the Stylish Blogger Award. Thanks ladies! Now I'm supposed to tell y'all five things (okay, it was seven, but I'm short on time so I'm changing it) about me and pass the award on. Here goes:

1. I'll eat just about anything so long as its vegan. The only two foods I do NOT like are licorice and arugala. That's it.

2. Until recently, I rarely ever ate fruit. Just not really a fan. When I want sweets, I'd rather have cake. But I'm really working on this. Trying to eat a piece of fruit everyday. This morning, I had a banana. Yesterday, I had a grapefruit. Baby steps.

3. I don't care for most music recorded between 1950 and 1980, with the exception of early punk rock and some disco. I hate the Beatles. I hate all classic rock. I mostly hate all modern indie rock. I make no apologies for this. I do not care how uncool that is. I mostly listen to dance music, rap, hip-hop, and late 1990s punk rock. Lady Gaga is my goddess.

4. I'm learning to hoop dance! I've been able to hula-hoop on my waist forever, but now I'm using the Hoopnotica videos to learn crazy moves like corkscrews and floating. Still very much a novice, but I'm getting there.

5. Since mid-December, I've had a crazy messed-up right index finger. I was bitten by a cat that I was trying to save after it was run over by a car. The bite immediately got infected. I took antibiotics and the infection seemed to clear, but I developed a boutonniere's deformity (look it up). Now my finger is stuck in a crooked position and I have to wear a finger brace 24/7. Next week, I'm scheduled for a finger MRI. I've learned to type, write, and do pretty much everything with nine fingers. Hopefully, I'll get my finger back one day. Oh, and yes I am right-handed.

Okay, now I'll pass the Stylish Blogger Award on to three of my fave bloggers (the rules said seven, but I'm changing that part too):
* Lauren and Eric at Goodbye Texas, Hello PA (because I'd love to have fancy cocktails with them!)
* Jen at That Pain In the Ass Vegan (because if we ever meet in real life, we're gonna have so much fun!!)
* Dianne at Singer Eats (because her latest post on Everything Toast is so right up my alley!).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Punky Pasta

I rarely make the same recipe twice. Well, when I was testing for my cookbook, I had to. But when I'm trying things from other cookbooks, I tend to opt for new dishes every time. But every great once in awhile, I stumble upon a recipe that I must make again and again. This Punk-Kin Pasta from La Dolce Vegan is one of those:

I've been making this recipe for years, and I'm really not sure how I've never managed to post about it before. Hell, maybe I have and I just can't seem to pull it up using my search function.

Anyway, I do have a rule about only making this dish in the fall or winter. Since it contains pumpkin, I only make it when it's in season. I guess pumpkin time is really over, but it's still February. And I had some frozen pumpkin puree and Morningstar Farms burger crumbles in my freezer that needed to be used.

The sauce is so simple — just pumpkin puree, onions, a little water or stock, and veggie burger. But it's oh, so delicious! I tossed in some brown rice & flax pasta spirals and topped the dish with Daiya mozzarella. Voila!

Do you have any all-time favorite go-to recipes in your cookbook collection?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just An Average Tuesday: A Food Diary

I typically post pictures of one or two dishes from one meal of the day, whether that was a hearty breakfast, a yummy lunch, or a decadent dinner. But I don't cook everyday. Some days, I just eat leftovers and convenience foods. Today was just an average Tuesday. No cooking, just easy food. Here's a recap.

As all Tuesdays go, this one began with my alarm going off at 7 a.m. I woke up, took a shower, and stumbled into the kitchen to dine on Whole Wheat Bagels with Tofutti Cream Cheeze, Strawberry Preserves, and Zucchini Marmalade (from local Dodson's Farm):

I also had a sliced Anjou Pear since I'm really trying to stop neglecting the fruit group:

By 9 a.m., I was pulling into my office at the Memphis Flyer, the alt-weeky paper where I work as a reporter and an associate editor. Tuesdays are deadline days for us since our weekly hits the stands every Wednesday. I spent the morning editing copy, and by lunch I was famished. As always on Tuesdays, deadlines forced me to enjoy my lunch at my desk. I heated a bowl of Annie Chun's Udon Soup:

And some leftover Spicy Greens from Happy Herbivore:

Remember that big ole conversation heart cake I got for Valentine's? I packed a generous slice in my lunchbag to enjoy in the afternoon. I ate this while I wrapped up my duties for the Wednesday paper:

After we finished the issue, I headed home to hop on Falcor (that's what I've named my new bike, a sweet-ass Electra ladies' cruiser) for a quick ride to Overton Park before losing daylight. It was 64 degrees out today! Goodbye stupid winter! When I returned, I took my doggie Datsun and my friend's doggie Bayli for a quick walk through the 'hood.

Then I whipped up a quick dinner of a Veggie Dog with Sauerkraut and Dijon and some of the baked Chili-Lime Corn Chips from Happy Herbivore:

Today was "Trubie Tuesday" (that's "True Blood Tuesday" for the uninitiated), so I had to hurry. Every week, the bitches gather at our friend Shara's house to watch Sookie, Vampire Bill, Eggs, and all those crazy vampires and fangbangers. I typically munch on food at Shara's too, as there's always snacks. But I avoided the munchies tonight because I figured I had all the extra calories I needed in that cake earlier.

Anyway, now I'm at home blogging. When I'm done, I'll prep lunch and dinner for tomorrow night (packing my lunch bag, chopping dinner veggies, etc.). Then I'll go to bed and start all over. Goodnight, y'all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day for the Un-Romantic

Confession: I ordered my own Valentine this year. My favorite local cupcake shop was offering customized vegan conversation hearts cakes, and I didn't want to risk the boyfriend Paul forgetting to place my order. So I placed my own order at Muddy's Bake Shop. I even chose my "conversation" phrase:

I did make Paul pick it up and pay me back, however. This adorable vanilla cake is so moist and delicious, and the frosting is sinfully sweet. Muddy's, a kitschy East Memphis bakery, always has at least one (sometimes two) vegan cakes in their bakery case. And they can always make vegan cakes and cupcakes by request. I'll do a full post on Muddy's very soon.

Paul arrived at home with my cake shortly after I got home from the office. Then we headed to Blue Fin Sushi Lounge for the obligatory VDay dinner. Here we are at Blue Fin:

I'm not romantic at all (as evidenced by the choice of words on my VDay cake). In fact, romantic gestures make me barf. But I do appreciate a good reason to spend my hand-earned cash on tasty restaurant eats. One thing the boyfriend Paul and I can always agree on is Asian food. Be it Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, whatever. We like it all. This Valentine's Day, we opted for sushi.

We started with cocktails and a plate of Edamame Hummus with Crispy Chips:

I've made edamame hummus at home, but nothing compares to the version at Blue Fin. They pour a little chili oil over the top before serving, and it makes a world of difference.

For my main course, I chose Inari (sweet fried tofu pockets stuffed with sticky rice), Roasted Asparagus Nigiri (hand rolls), and the Veggie Roll with tofu and assorted vegetables. Yum, yum!

After dinner, we headed to the Flying Saucer, a downtown bar boasting the largest selection of specialty brews in town. Paul ordered his favorite hefeweizen, Ayinger Brau-Weisse. I opted for my most favorite beer of all time, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier — a smoked beer from Germany. I took this pic with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone:

How'd you spend Valentine's Day?