Friday, April 29, 2011

Sushi Deconstructed

I love sushi! Like, I super puffy heart sushi. But let's face it: sushi is a pain in the ass to make at home. My rolling skills aren't so stellar, and unless I'm feeding a big crowd, I rarely make DIY sushi. Unfortunately, sushi rolls purchased at restaurants are typically way overpriced.

But of course, Isa Chandra Moskowitz has a solution for that (Doesn't she have a solution for everything?!) — the Sushi Roll Edamame Salad with Green Onion-Miso Dressing from Appetite for Reduction:

It's everything that should be in a veggie sushi roll, but minus the roll. Lettuce, cucumber, carrot, avocado, edamame, nori, green onion, sesame seeds, and more. It may not be quite as fun to eat with chopsticks, but it's tasty and much faster to prepare than homemade sushi.

My sushi salad was even better eaten with my favorite wasabi paste:

I buy this stuff at the Viet Hoa Food Market in Midtown. It's squeezable wasabi in a tube! Perfect for topping bites of salad.

What would you put on your dream sushi salad?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Low-Fat Asian-ish Eats

Yea, I have Internet again!! Thankfully, Comcast got right on that, and my connection was working by mid-day. And it looks like the storms are gone for a few days. To celebrate, I had a delicious meal from Appetite for Reduction tonight — Hoison-Mustard Tofu Wraps:

And Scallion Potato Pancakes:

The hoison-mustard tofu is ridiculously amazing. I pressed the tofu overnight in my Tofu Xpress tofu press, so it was super-firm. Then it's lightly fried with bell peppers, hoisin sauce, mustard, and red pepper flakes. I added extra hot chili peppers because I can take the heat. The spicy tofu is paired with cool and crunchy romaine hearts for a low-fat, yummy entree.

Isa suggests pairing the tofu with her Scallion Potato Pancakes, a baked potato pancake that could rival any fried version. The mashed taters are mixed with scallions and spices and then dredged in panko. After shooting this pic, I smothered these babies in sriracha. Oh, and I served some steamed farmer's market kale on the side. Veggie heavy, low-cal, and delicious.

No Internets...

Hey y'all. I lost my cable connection in the crazy storms that passed through Memphis last night. Thankfully, I still have power, unlike many of my friends and most of my neighborhood. Since thousands lost power and cable, it may be awhile before the connection is repaired ... or it may be as early as tonight. So I'll post again as soon as my cable internet is restored (right now, I'm posting from work, but I don't want to do a full post here).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Seitan 101

On Saturday, I led a seitan-makin' class for our local vegetarian group, Food Awareness. A few new members had requested a vegetarian cooking class, and I volunteered to lead it. The topic was up to me, and I thought it'd be fun to show folks how to make seitan from scratch and how to use that seitan to make my Seitan Hot Wangz. I also demonstrated how to make gluten-based Creole Steamed Sausages.

I have a roomy kitchen, so we held the demo at my house. Here I am kneading the seitan dough. Oh, and check out my new hair!

This is Mary Carmen. She's new to our group, and she's not yet a vegetarian. This was her first time trying seitan, and she went back for seconds before she had to leave to catch the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-offs:

After we made our dough and boiled the seitan chunks in broth, I demonstrated my Seitan Hot Wangz recipe. It's in my cookbook, which will be coming out around the end of the year:

And then we made my Creole Steamed Sausages, also from the cookbook:

Six people (well, eight if you count my friends Greg and Pat who conveniently showed up just in time for samples) turned out for the class, and all the bite-sized samples were gone by the end. Seitan success!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Cosmic Coconut

Cosmic Coconut is finally open!! I've been awaiting this new vegan juice bar's first day forever, and that day finally came on Good Friday/Earth Day. The East Memphis shop held its soft opening from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day, and since our offices closed at noon for the holiday, I had just enough time to make the drive from downtown to East Memphis. I arrived to find this storefront at 5101 Sanderlin Avenue:

And this cute ass sign out front:

Inside, I was faced with loads of choices! For now, Cosmic Coconut offers juices, smoothies, coffee, tea, and smoothie bowls (topped with coconut, granola, or walnuts). They eventually plan to add raw desserts and snacky foods, like guacamole and hummus:

After much deliberation, I finally settled on a large Chocolate Covered Almond Smoothie:

This was made from bananas, So Delicious coconut milk, almond butter, cacao powder, and carob powder. It was all I had for lunch, and it was so satisfying. The delicious combo kept me full right until dinner time. I can't wait to try the juices and smoothie bowls.

Cosmic Coconut is located at 5101 Sanderlin Ave., Suite 104B. Call 901-729-7134 or visit their website.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Curry In a Hurry

If you haven't noticed, I've not had much time for cooking this week. Most of my posts lately have been about dining out because I've just been so busy.

When I know I have a crazy busy weeknight coming up, I tend to cook entire meals the night before. Around 10 p.m., I'll whip up an entire meal, portion it into containers to last for several days, and re-heat one serving the next day. That's what I did last night when I made (I mean, re-heated) this Tofu Saag with Red Quinoa and Whole Wheat Roti:

The Tofu Saag is from 30 Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray. These guys really put together a fantastic volume of diverse, delicious, and super-quick meals. It's one of my favorite go-to books for fast weekday suppers.

This dish consisted of fast-baked tofu (only 15 minutes), spinach, peas, coconut milk, curry, and other spices. The authors suggested serving with quinoa rather than rice for a little twist.

The roti was a cheater item. I buy that stuff frozen at the Passage to India market in Cordova. I dipped this slice of roti into a spicy tomato chutney, also from the Indian market.

How do you handle meals on busy nights?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Bari Ristorante

Y'all know I don't care much for gourmet fare. I'd take a big ole slice of vegan pizza or a bowl of mashed taters and gravy over a fancy five-course meal any day. But there's something about special occasions that makes you feel compelled to dine out somewhere nice. For Paul's 31st birthday on Tuesday, we opted for Bari Ristorante, a gourmet Italian joint specializing in cuisine from the region of Puglia. Here's the birthday boy actin' fancy with wine and un-vegan pasta:

We started with a bottle of pinot and bread with olive oil and cracked pepper. I'm not sure the vegan-ness of the wine, but I rarely check when dining out. These were wines from Italian wineries and they weren't listed in my iPhone vegan wine app. When it comes to wine in restaurants, I have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy (Except I'm telling y'all now. Oops!). I also ordered a bowl of Mixed Olives, and it had black, green, and red ones! I'd never even seen red olives before!

For my salad, I went with the Radicchio e Indiva salad — a grilled endive and radicchio salad with a red wine vinaigrette. It typically comes with gorgonzola, but I asked for that to be omitted:

It was tasty, but the vinaigrette seemed a little heavy — too oily and also too heavy on the vinegar. But I'd never tried grilled lettuces before, and I must say, they were quite delicious.

Next up was
Fava con cicoria — fava bean puree with chicory root:

Bari offers a great selection of veggies sides, but the fava beans wer
e calling my name for some reason. Maybe I just needed protein. These mashed beans were peppered with bits of savory chicory, which tasted a little like the radicchio. Even though this was "gourmet," this dish felt more like comfort food. Probably because it was mashed.

For my pasta course, I went with a veganized version of their
Orecchiette alla Pugliese — little ears pasta with sauteed broccoli rabe, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic:

This dish normally comes with anchovies, but that is disgusting. Thankfully, our super-nice server was happy to order the dish for me sans the tiny fish. Though most pasta at Bari is fresh pasta made with eggs, I was told the orecchiette and rigatoni noodles were egg-free. These were absolutely delicious. I loved the chewy texture of the "little ears," and there are few veggies more satisfying that broccoli rabe and tomatoes.

I was far too full for dessert after this indulgent meal. Bari's menu does feature an option that I thought was vegan — grapefruit segments drizzled with Campari reduction and sugar crystals. But an anonymous commenter just informed me that Campari isn't vegan because of the red dye they use, so nevermind! No vegan desserts at Bari.

Even though Paul and I typically go for more Americanized Italian (yes, we love the Macaroni Grill!), Bari offered a little something different. They don't even serve marinara! Paul didn't understand how an Italian joint doesn't serve marinara, but I suppose that says something about how very un-bourgeois we are.

Anyhow, I was impressed with Bari's friendly service and willingness to work with a picky vegan. Definitely a great option for a future special occasion dinner.

Bari Ristorante is located at 22 S. Cooper. Call 901-722-2244 or check out their website.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Food Truck Fare

Until today, food trucks weren't allowed in the city of Memphis. We're no Portland, after all. But maybe we're one step closer now. The Memphis City Council approved an ordinance today allowing food trucks to serve within 50 feet of a downtown restaurant or 300 feet of a restaurant anywhere else in the city.

Before, only hot dog carts were allowed. And we're not talking veggie dog carts. But today, in an attempt to sway the city council's vote, a local group called Beyond BBQ and the Center City Commission hosted a special food truck festival in Court Square at lunchtime. My fave vegan-friendly eatery, Fuel Cafe, had a truck there along with Crepe Maker, Yolo frozen yogurt, A Square Meal on Wheels, and the Rolling Pit. Nearly 600 people showed up in support!

I waited an hour in this line for Fuel's food truck:

When I finally reached the front of the line, I was faced with a few food choices – a vegan burger or vegan tacos:

Here's one of Fuel's cooks, busily preparing yummy food:

Since I've had Fuel's delicious vegan burger several times, I opted for the tacos, which aren't served in their restaurant:

Crispy corn tortillas were stuffed with Fuel's crumbled house-made veggie burger, vegan cheddar, salsa, lettuce, and vegan sour cream. They were served with black beans, white rice, and vegan coleslaw (hidden under the tacos).

So, so worth the wait! I'd wait an hour for that meal all over again right now. I hope Fuel opens a regular food truck now since it's legal in the city. Yea for food trucks!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Pho Hoa Binh

If you're a vegetarian in Memphis, you know Pho Hoa Binh. I mean, like, you know it intimately. You know the overwhelming sense of joy that comes from the first bite of chewy, salty, deep-fried Lemongrass Tofu. You know the satisfaction of stuffing your plate with as much tofu from the buffet as possible and then going back for seconds. You know how good it feels when you shell out a measly $6 and some change for enough food to feed a vegan army.

If you're not in Memphis, let me fill you in on the best little Vietnamese joint in the M-Town. Everyday at lunch, this modest eatery offers a small-but-packed-with-goodness buffet featuring mostly tofu dishes. There's always about two meat entrees, but most people skip right over those. Even omnis go there for the tofu, and that's sayin' somethin'. Here's my omni friend Halley stuffing her plate with tofu, no meat:

And here's my haul from a recent lunch — Lemongrass Tofu, Black Bean Tofu, and Coconut Curry Tofu:

Now, they do offer a few salad items on the bar, but you don't go to Pho Hoa Binh for the veggies. It's all about the chewy, fried tofu. No place fries up bean curd quite like Pho Hoa Binh.

Pho Hoa Binh is located at 1615 Madison Avenue. Call 901-276-0006.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Party Monsters!

My boyfriend Paul turns 31 on Tuesday, which officially makes him a grown-up. And grown-ups can't party on Tuesdays! So we celebrated this Saturday night with a house party/nightclub outing. Here's Paul making his wish:

I never throw a party without a costume theme. My friends and I love any excuse to dress up in fabulous wigs and crazy makeup, and since Paul's an old rave kid, we went with a raver theme. We love Party Monster with Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green, the 2003 film documenting the true story of 80s club kids Michael Alig and James St. James, so we went with a Party Monster/Club Kid/Rave theme.

I sported all my old candy bracelets (from my rave days), disco boots, pink tights, and this crazy Katy Perry-style wig. Paul wore some giant Tripp pants and did the goth raver thing:

As for food, Paul requested that I make both of the dishes that I made at a recent cooking demo at the Farm. He really loves these Tofu Deviled Eggy Bites from my upcoming cookbook:

And he's a big fan of my BBQ Tempeh & Carrot Sandwiches, shown here as mini party-size sammys:

I also whipped up some Stuffed Mushrooms, filled with a mixture of sauteed onion, garlic, celery, herbs, and breadcrumbs:

And Paul's favorite snack — Black Bean Dip, Salsa, and Chips:

For his cake, Paul asked me to make the same cake I made for Sheridan's wedding shower last weekend — Red Velvet Cake from Papa Tofu:

After the food was gone and some of the guests had thinned out, a few of us caravaned to Rehab Disco for the Red Square Reunion party with DJs Graflin and Mary Jane. It was an 80s rave reunion party, which coincidentally went right along with our theme. Party on!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eat This On Rollerskates

Growing up in Arkansas, I used to love eatin' at Sonic. We'd go to the drive-in at least once a week for a crazy mixed-up fruit soda (Grape-Cherry Ocean Water, anyone?) or hot salty fries. My parents taught me early on the best way to enjoy Sonic fries. Pour a whole package of salt in the bag. Seal. Shake. Consume. No ketchup required since the fries were typically eaten in the car before we ever made it home.

I rarely go to Sonic anymore since they don't have much for vegans. I may get fries or tots every now again (and no, I'm not one of those vegans who cares what grease my fries were cooked in). If Sonic offered vegan stuff, I'd surely eat there as I still adore fast food from time to time. But now I can make Sonic goodness at home, like this Vegan Frito Chili Cheese Wrap from Jenn Shaggy's Veganize It, Don't Criticize It blog:

Now I probably haven't had a Sonic Frito Chili Cheese Wrap in 20 years, so I'm not sure how close this is to the real thing. But who cares? It's fantastic! The chili is from Jenn's own recipe, a simple-but-tasty preparation. I subbed TVP for her seitan because it seemed quicker. I'm sure the seitan chili would have been amazing though.

The chili is topped with Fritos, Daiya vegan cheese, and red onion, and then it's all wrapped up in a Cedar's Mountain Bread wrap. Not healthy food by any means, but y'all know I like my naughty stuff. Here's Jenn's recipe so you can be naughty too!

To balance out my junk food consumption, I served my wrap with Isa's OMG Baked Onion Rings from Appetite for Reduction:

You'd think a baked onion ring just wouldn't have the same crunch as a fried version. But you'd be wrong. I know I was. These low-fat rings were uber-tasty sans all the grease. I dipped them liberally in sriracha-ketchup. I swear they were just as good as Sonic's onion rings!

Which fast food item would you love to see veganized?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easter Comes Early!

I don't really celebrate Easter in a religious sense, but I'm all about bunnies and chickens and baskets stuffed with goodies. For me, Easter is sort of an extension of the Spring Equinox, a celebration of our fertile Earth. After all, fertility is the reason behind the bunny and egg symbolism this time of year.

Since the actual Easter holiday doesn't matter that much to me, I had no problem accepting the Easter basket from my parents a few weeks early. Yes, I'm 30 years old. Yes, my parents still give me an Easter basket. My parents are pretty awesome like that. My dad let me pick out a few goodies from Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe. Here's what I got:

Dandies Lemon Tweets, Leahey Gardens Macaroni & Cheese (which I blogged about on Monday), a bag of Leahey Gardens Cheese Flavored Sauce Mix (the same cheese used in the macaroni but by itself), Kookie Karma Cheesy Kale Krackers, and Eco-planet Non-Dairy Cheddar Crackers.

I've already raved on and on about the Leahey Gardens macaroni (best stuff on Earth!). I haven't tried the cheese sauce mix yet, but I know it will be perfect for topping steamed broccoli, nachos, or chili cheese fries.

I'm on a vegan marshmallow kick right now. So I HAD to try these Dandies Tweets. They're vegan versions of the hot pink and lemon yellow Peeps!

I guess they don't look all that much like chickens, but they taste delicious. Not as sweet as Peeps, but that's a good thing. Same fluffy marshmallow texture.

Eco-Planet Non-Dairy Cheddar Crackers are a long-time fave that I can only find online. I always stock up when I get the chance. They're like Goldfish crackers, but vegan. And the Cheesy Kale Krackers sounded irresistable. But at nearly $7 for a bag of two servings, I would have been too cheap to order them with my own money. But when Daddy is paying ...

Well, these crunchy raw crackers were worth every penny. The cheesy coating is made from cashews, red pepper, and miso, and it's better than any kale chip I've ever made at home:

I stashed them on my desk at work to ease mid-morning hunger. But since a certain co-worker likes to help himself to my desk snacks (you know who you are, Mark Plumlee), I left this friendly note:

I wouldn't pay the $7 again, but now that I've seen the ingredients and tasted these yummy dehydrated chips, I can probably recreate them from scratch. When I do, I'll be sure and share the recipe.

Thanks Mama and Daddy for the awesome Easter basket!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More Vegan Eats at Fuel Cafe

I've blogged about Fuel Cafe before, but I just couldn't resist showing you what I had for dinner there tonight. Check out this Vegan Chili Mac covered in quinoa chili, vegan cheese, and Tofutti sour cream:

Yes, it was delicious. I ate the entire plate, which was clearly enough pasta for two people. Sometimes I split my restaurant food in half before digging in. Then I only eat half and save the rest for the next day's lunch. But this was too good to split.

Fuel, a cute Midtown cafe located in an old automotive repair shop, has plenty of vegan options (vegan chili mac, vegan chili nachos, sesame-coated tofu wedges with Asian slaw, Thai tofu curry) since Chef Carrie is a vegan. And their meat dishes are all made with humanely-raised animals, which is better than what most places around here serve. I'm not cool with any meat, but for the folks who haven't given it up yet, this is a way better option. Fuel even has vegan ice cream for dessert!!

I met my vegetarian friend Leslie at Fuel tonight. She lives in vegan mecca Asheville, North Carolina, and she's visiting Memphis for the week. Leslie is originally from Memphis, but she's been gone for a few years. Thankfully for me, she's moving back here in mid-May. Leslie was very pleased to find a new place to eat veggie burgers:

The homemade Fuel veggie burger is the best patty in town, without question. I have a feeling Leslie and I will be making way more trips to Fuel after she moves to Memphis. For more on Fuel, read my Bluff City Vegan Eats post.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Will Never Make Homemade Vegan Mac & Cheese Again!

Because I've discovered something better! Leahey Gardens vegan macaroni & cheese is actually better than homemade, swear to god. I've made all sorts of vegan mac and cheeses, both homemade and boxed. But none comes close to this one:

Look at that creaminess! I got a package of Leahey Gardens mac in my Easter basket from my parents (yes, I still get an Easter basket and yes, I got it way early). My dad ordered it from Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe, along with some other goodies that I'll share in a post later this week. I've never had a creamier, closer-to-Kraft vegan mac. I've always preferred the boxed stuff over homemade, but nothing has really ever come close to that Kraft boxed dinner taste. If you're not into that, you might not love Leahey as much as I do. But trust me when I say this stuff brings back childhood memories.

The powdered sauce packet is made of all-natural stuff though — nutritional yeast (of course!), cornstarch, tomato powder, and other spices. All of the ingredients are pronounceable and recognizable, so even though it's boxed, it's still real food.

Truth be told, I probably will make homemade vegan mac & cheese again since Leahey isn't sold in stores here. I have to order it online, and that's costly. Originally, I'd planned to make the Vegan Mac & Cheese from the Farm Cookbook tonight, but when I got the Leahey this weekend, I knew I had to try it. Expect a Farm Cookbook macaroni post soon, though.

The mac & cheese was a side dish with my Hippie Loaf from Happy Herbivore:

I love vegan meatloaf recipes, and this one was no exception. Mashed black beans, mushrooms, onions, celery, and carrots are held together with brown rice flour, making this main course gluten-free. Of course, the macaroni canceled that out. But anyway, really, really good. And only 190 calories for two slices. I love Happy Herbivore!

Here's a full plate shot with some canned peas & carrots:

I actually prefer the canned English peas over fresh or frozen. I'm weird like that. I grew up on canned and boxed foods, even though my mom is a phenomenal cook. We always ate a good balance of homemade and prepared foods, so maybe that's why I'm so balanced now. Homemade vegan meatloaf, boxed mac & cheese, and canned veggies. That's what I call balance.

Do you like any prepared foods better than their fresh versions?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Best Vegan Wedding Shower Spread Ever!

This is my BFF Sheridan:

She's been vegetarian for several years, but she and her partner Drew made the vegan plunge this past New Year's. Now those crazy kids are getting hitched, and Sheridan held one of her two wedding showers this past Saturday in Jonesboro, Arkansas. All those prezzies around her turned out to be awesome-ass cookware and dinnerware.

Since I'm a bridesmaid, I co-hosted with friends Liz and Brittany. Neither of them are vegan, so my mom and I split the food duties. My mom's not vegan either, but she is an excellent vegan cook! She made these Tofutti Cream Cheese Pinwheels with black olives, pecans, and green onions all rolled up into tortillas:

And she whipped up this Ramen Noodle Slaw — a delicious mix of cabbage, crunchy Ramen noodz, sesame oil, almonds, and some other stuff:

She also made these Mexican Wedding Cookies, sweet balls of toasted coconut and crunchy cookie, rolled in powdered sugar:

I brought Black Olive Hummus from Veganomicon:

And Muhammara from The Vegan Table. If you've never tried this roasted red pepper and walnut spread, you're missing out. I make it for parties all the time. We ate this with crackers:

And finally, I brought this Red Velvet Cake from Kittee's Papa Tofu zine. It was my first time trying this recipe, but it turned out great. Moist and it held together quite well. I opted for buttercream over a traditional cream cheeze frosting because it would have taken a lot of expensive-ass Tofutti to cover this layer cake:

Liz made this super-awesome punch with pink lemonade, Sprite, and sparkling grape juice. It typically has red wine instead of grape juice, but Sher's mom is a teetotaler:

As I mentioned earlier, almost all of Sheridan's gifts were kitchen items — fancy dinnerware, everyday dinnerware, and cooking stuff. I got her a set of four Vegan Dish cereal bowls from Etsy:

I was tempted to keep the Vegan Dish bowls for myself, but that would have been mean!