Thursday, June 30, 2011

Frying with Beer!

Two of my favorite things — beer and fried food. Yes, they're guilty pleasures, and no, I don't eat/drink them everyday. But sometimes a girl needs a tasty brew and crispy goodness, and sometimes she needs those two things in the same dish! When I saw the Beer Battered Tempeh Fish in the April issue of VegNews, I knew I had to make it:

OMG! The tempeh is seasoned with my other favorite thing — malt vinegar. Then its dipped in a beer batter (I used Magic Hat Wacko) and fried in hot oil. That white stuff is Tangy Tartar Sauce made from Vegenaise, relish, green olives, capers, and dry onion (the recipe is included in VegNews too).

I never cared for fish when I ate meat, but I do remember loving Captain D's as a kid. Not for the fish, but for the batter. This tempeh fish boasts a batter that's deliciously similar to the fast food chain's.

I served my "fish" with steamed, white pattypan squash from the Memphis Farmer's Market and Leahey Gardens macaroni and cheese.

Also, I forgot to mention yesterday (because Blogger was being CRAZY!) that I was featured as Memphian #180 out of 365 in the I Love Memphis "365 Memphians" Project. Blogger Kerry Crawford interviewed me about veganism, time travel, and my Friday night plans. Here's the link.

Lucky Number 7

My partner Paul and I celebrated our seven-year anniversary last night! We can always agree on Italian food, but I had a hard time picking an affordable place that wasn't a chain restaurant (we're trying to save for Vida Vegan Con!). And then I remembered that a new Italian joint had recently opened in the Cooper-Young neighborhood.

Cortona's Contemporary Italian took the place of one of our old bar haunts, Dish. So it seemed appropriate to eat an anniversary dinner in the same building that used to house one of our favorite bars. Here we are at a table for two:

I called Cortona's a few days earlier to place a reservation and to make sure they could accommodate a vegan. The man who answered the phone was super-nice and assured me that I'd find several vegan options.

For starters, we ordered this Cannellinni Dip:

Our server described the dip as "like hummus but with white beans." And sure enough, that's exactly what it tasted like. I loved this stuff! Probably even better than hummus since I prefer white beans over chickpeas. I mean, of course I love chickpeas, but white beans take the cake. By the way, the pita served with the dip had some cheese sprinkled on it. But our server brought out some soft French bread for me.

I ordered a vegan Wedge Salad that wasn't exactly on the menu. It typically comes with bleu cheese and bacon. But our server had the kitchen hook me up with balsamic vinaigrette, red onions, and tomatoes instead:

And for my main course, I chose the Penne Rigate Primavera:

A little secret for vegans dining at Italian restaurants: Although most Italian places use non-vegan fresh pasta (contains eggs), many also offer shaped pasta, like penne or bowtie pasta, that's shipped in dry form. That's almost always vegan.

The sauce on these tender noodles was sweet and spicy, just the way a marinara should be. And the veggies — zucchini, red pepper, and onion — were the perfect topper. I actually had enough food in this bowl for three meals. I had some leftovers for lunch today, and I'll be eating more tomorrow.

Except for the part of the dinner when Paul accidentally flicked a red pepper flake into his own eye, the evening was perfectly lovely.

If you're ever in Memphis and looking for a locally-owned Italian joint that won't cost you next month's rent, Cortona's is the place to go. It's located at 948 S. Cooper. Call 901-729-0101.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tofurky Lurky Pizza Time!

At least a year ago, Turtle Island Foods sent me a coupon in the mail for a free Tofurky pizza! They wanted me to review their new Daiya-covered frozen pizzas on my blog. And I was more than willing to do so. I rushed to Whole Foods when my coupon arrived, but sadly, the freezer section guy informed me that our store didn't carry the pizza yet.

So every single time I've visited Whole Foods between now and then (and that's at least once every two weeks), I've strolled through the frozen section just hoping against hope that my precious vegan pizza would be on the shelf.

Then one day about a week ago, my friend Richard posted this photo on Facebook of a freezer case full of Tofurky pizzas at our Whole Foods. He tagged me in one of the boxes, so I'd be sure to see it:

Thankfully, I'd held on to that coupon all this time. When I got to Whole Foods, I had a choice to make — Vegan Cheese, Pepperoni, or Italian Sausage & Fire-Roasted Veggie. The choice was obvious though. I love Tofurky's sausages, and fire-roasted veggies are the best! Victory!

One night over the weekend, I had a hankerin' for pizza and no time to cook a proper dinner, so I baked this little pizza and cut up a side salad:

Look at the little fire-roasted marks on that tiny tomato! I liked how the veggies and the sausage were diced very small, and even though it wasn't loaded with Daiya, there was enough to make it cheesy. I'll bet the cheese flavor has more Daiya. That's next on my list.

While you can't beat a homemade pizza (or better yet, a giant Mega-Veggie Pizza with Daiya from Mellow Mushroom), these little frozen pizzas are perfect for those nights when you're just too busy to cook. Plus, they bring me back to my pregan, college days when I lived on cheapo frozen pizzas, mac & cheese, and ramen.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Vegan Brunch

Memphis' only all-vegan restaurant, Imagine Vegan Cafe, is now serving brunch! The comfort food cafe opened in April, and they've been serving hearty, vegan meat-based entrees for lunch and dinner daily. But this afternoon, Imagine launched brunch, and my friends and I (we call ourselves the Imagine Vegan Supper Club, but we'll have to change that to Breakfast Club on Sundays) were there for the big event.

Much like their regular menu, the brunch menu is huge and loaded with mouth-watering options. I couldn't resist the Memphis Slam — two biscuits topped with sausage, tofu scramble, gravy, and cheezy sauce!

This was clearly enough food for two meals, but I ate it all! And I paid for it later by feeling miserably full all day. Next time, I'm asking for a to-go box.

My friend Kim went with the Breakfast Platter — potatoes, grits, tofu scramble, biscuits, and your choice of bacon or sausage. For some crazy reason, Kim didn't want the scramble, but pretend it's on this plate:

Leslie ordered the BLT, which is supposed to come with breakfast potatoes. But she wanted fruit, so they let her swap out the side. I would have totally chosen potatoes over fruit though!

And Mike ordered a platter of Piggies in a Blanket for the table — sausage links wrapped in flaky crescent rolls:

Everything I tried was amazing, and I'm sure I'll be back to try everything on the brunch menu. Our supper club meets at Imagine every Wednesday night for dinner, but we may have to start coming every Sunday too. In fact, I love this place so much, I could totally stop cooking and eat there everyday! But don't worry ... I need to cook to be happy. So that won't happen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Raw Food for Two

For years, my all-raw food day detoxes were a solo effort. I know lots of vegans and vegetarians, but none willing to give up cooked food for a whole day. Well, I have a few raw friends, but they're raw every day and doing a one-day raw cleanse with them wouldn't be the same. They're so above my level!

But when my vegan co-worker Hannah moved into the cubicle next to me several months ago, she suggested we do a raw day together. We put it off and put it off for months for various reasons — weddings, vacations, busy work weeks. But today, we finally had a successful Raw Food Thursday. After spending two hours prepping food Wednesday night, we were ready for a full day of uncooked eats.

We started our morning bright and early at Cosmic Coconut, Memphis' only all-vegan juice and smoothie bar. Our awesome friend Ashley owns the place, and she gave us these sweet, stainless steel reusable straws for our smoothies! Mine is a Mango Mama (mango, coconut meat and juice) and Hannah got the Tropical Fusion (mango, pineapple, coconut, and pomegranate):

Ashley also sells raw desserts at Cosmic Coconut, and Hannah and I HAD to buy some of her bittersweet cacao-coconut balls, Coco-Nutties. These may be the best raw dessert I've ever had:

But we didn't stop there. No way. Ashley knew we were coming, so she brought in some Raw Cookie Dough for us to try. I'm not sure what is in this, but I detect cashews, coconut oil, and carob. It really tastes a lot like cookie dough, but it's way healthier:

We saved those raw desserts for mid-day snackin', but first we had a hearty lunch of this Spring Herb Rainbow Salad in Kreamy Curry Dressing from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen. The salad was made with chard, dill, rosemary, and cilantro and tossed with a sweet curry dressing that was tasty enough to eat by itself with a spoon:

We also had Zucchini Hummus from Raw Food Made Easy. I've had several raw hummus recipes, and this one may be my favorite. It was perfect with these leftover Salsa-Flax Crackers from a past raw day:

Dinner was another raw day stand-by for me, but it was Hannah's first time trying the Raw Tacos from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen. Ani's recipe actually called for cabbage leaves to be used as burrito shells, but we opted for Romaine heart taco shells instead. They're stuffed with Ani's Nacho Cheeze, Taco Nut Meat, and Red Pepper Corn Salsa:

In between meals, when we weren't snackin' on raw cookie dough at our desks, we were shoveling (quite literally) these Cheezy Raw Kale Chips into our mouths. We invented the recipe on Wednesday night in an attempt to recreate Kookie Karma's Cheesy Kale Krackers, which I'd gotten in my Easter basket a few months ago:

These were delicious! Hannah said they reminded her of spicy Cheeze-Its, which she's all sad that she can't eat anymore now that she's vegan. They were crunchy right out of the dehydrator, but they did soften a bit after I bagged them up and took them into the office. I'd recommend eating these right away. Here's the recipe.

Bianca & Hannah's Cheezy Raw Kale Chips

1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into small pieces
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
Juice from one lemon
1 Tbsp. miso
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Wash and tear the kale. Place into a large bowl and set aside.

In a food processor, combine the cashews, red bell pepper, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso, pepper flakes, and about 1/4 cup of water. Process until smooth, adding more water as needed to create a creamy paste.

Pour the mixture over the kale in a bowl, and massage it into the leaves. Spread the kale leaves out onto a couple of dehydrator sheets (we used two sheets in my Excalibur). Dehydrate for 7 hours at 115 degrees.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cheeze Eggs & Gravy

Like every good Southern girl, I love me some gravy. Honestly, no matter where you hail from, you really ought to love gravy. It's good on biscuits, mashed taters, vegan sausage, veggie burgers. Hell, the Canadians even smother gravy on their French fries and give it a fancy name like poutine. When I saw this recipe for Cream Toast on VegWeb, I knew it'd become a breakfast staple in my house:

That's a slice of toast topped with a cheezy tofu scramble and creamy white gravy. Does the morning get any better? I've been eating this all week, and I seriously can't even sleep in anymore. When my alarm goes off, my first thought is "cream toast!!"

Then I hop in the shower and wash off as quickly as possible, so I can savor each bite of this creamy, cheezy breakfast afterward. By the way, the cheeze in the tofu scramble is melted Follow Your Heart Cheddar. Reminds me of the cheese eggs my mom used to make. Definitely a keeper.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice Dinner!

Summer is my favorite season! I'm happiest when the temps are in the high-90s, the humidity is through the roof, and the cicadas hum so loud you can hear them indoors. As a native Southerner, I can take the heat. So naturally, Summer Solstice is pretty important to me.

Since I had a busy solstice night planned, I celebrated the changing of the seasons on Monday night with a spicy Latin-inspired meal of Pasta de los Angeles and Chili-Lime Rubbed Tofu from Appetite for Reduction:

The plate you see above has less than 400 calories! And it was oh-so-filling. The pasta is seasoned with lime juice, shallots, and garlic and tossed with sauteed tomatoes, spinach, and black beans. I took Isa's advice and served my noodles with her simple chili-lime baked tofu.

Of course, a proper summer celebration isn't complete without dessert. Since I'm so burnt-out with baking (after baking 160 cupcakes with my mom this weekend), I cheated and purchased a Lavender Vanilla Cupcake from Imagine Vegan Cafe:

The combo of vanilla cake and lush lavender frosting was beyond-words delicious. And look at the cute-ass little leaf embellishment.

More importantly, check out the plate the cupcake it sitting on! My best friend Sheridan got me me this as my bridesmaid's gift for helping with her wedding. It's by the Vegan Dish lady! I have one of her vegan bowls and a vegan mug, and this adorable saucer is the perfect addition to my collection.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sheridan and Drew's Vegan Wedding!

As promised, today's post is all about the vegan awesomeness at my best friend Sheridan's wedding. I don't care for weddings, unless there's delicious food involved. In fact, I don't care for much of anything unless delicious food is involved. My priorities are clearly in order. :-) But when Sheridan got engaged, she promised me an amazing vegan wedding. And she delivered!

Here's Sheridan and I, all dressed up. Isn't she pretty?! I don't cry unless animals die, but I'll admit I had to fight back a tiny tear when I saw her walk down that aisle lookin' all fabulous.

Sheridan's original catering plan totally fell through only days before the wedding. The friend who'd promised to do her food had car trouble and couldn't make the trip. But luckily, Wonder Meghan stepped in! She isn't even vegan, but Meghan whipped up some yummy vegan finger foods in a hurry. Here's Meghan preppin' food Saturday morning with her partner Patrick:

She made cute-ass, tiny Cucumber Sandwiches with dill and Vegenaise:

And Tabouli!!!

She set out this bowl of chopped veggies with Annie's Woodstock Dressing, which is hands down the best flavor of Annie's dressing ever ... even better than Goddess in my not-so-humble opinion:

She made Black Bean Dip from scratch, and even though I forgot to take a photo, there were also three kinds of hummus:

Drew's dad Barry made his famous secret-recipe Pasta Salad. It had black beans, corn, peppers, peas, carrots, and some sort of delicious tangy-sweet dressing:

My mama and I were in charge of making 160 cupcakes for Sheridan's wedding. When I volunteered for the job months ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. And neither did my mom, since I sort of volunteered her help without her knowledge. Oops! Here we are posing in front of Sheridan and Drew's getaway Corvette (it's actually Drew's stepdad's car):

Drew is a crafty fella, and he made almost all the wedding decorations himself. He built this fairy-like cupcake stand from a tree limb and some wooden platforms:

And he made this cupcake topper from thin pieces of wood. You can't see it here, but the backs of the Sheridan and Drew toppers are Batgirl and Batman:

After hours slaving away in my mom's kitchen on Friday, we'd produced enough cupcakes to fill the couple's cupcake stand several times. We made three flavors — the Coconut Heaven Cupcakes from Vegan with a Vengeance:

Strawberry Daiquari Cupcakes from Are You Sure That's Vegan?:

And the Basic Chocolate Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. All the cakes were topped with the buttercream frosting from that book:

In the end, it was a lovely ceremony. And despite my feelings about weddings, I was okay with this one. Sheridan and Drew put a ton of creative energy into it, and it was far from traditional. It's really the idea of tradition that I hate, not so much the idea of commitment. Sheridan and Drew's wedding was so far from traditional that none of that mattered on Saturday.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My BFF's Wedding: The Rehearsal

My best friend Sheridan got married this weekend. We've been friends since 8th grade, and even though she's moved all over the country since then, we've stuck together. Now, she lives in Little Rock with her partner Drew, and the two finally got hitched after 10 years (off and on) of shackin' up. I was one of three bridesmaids.

As I've stated plenty of times before, I'm no fan of elaborate weddings. I'm kind of a dude when it comes to things like that. So when my invites for the "bridal luncheon" and "rehearsal dinner" came in the mail, I just rolled my eyes. I'd already volunteered to make Sheridan's cupcakes on the day before her wedding, and these two social commitments sounded like a huge time-suck. Who needs to rehearse for a 20-minute wedding ceremony? We're just standing there, right?

But I must say, the delicious vegan options (and abundance of wine) offered at Sheridan's rehearsal dinner totally changed my mind. By the 7 p.m. dinner on Friday, my mom and I had managed to finish baking 160 vegan cupcakes. So the red wine at the dinner was much-needed. But I was even more impressed by Molly's amazing vegan spread. Molly is Sheridan's partner Drew's mom, and since the two of them went vegan in January, she made a mostly-vegan buffet for us.

She made vegan sushi as an appetizer!

My favorite dish was this Rice Stuffing with Dried Cranberries. It reminded me of Thanksgiving! Sorry the photo is out of focus:

And the Chickpea, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad was so refreshing on the hot June night:

Look at this colorful raw Beet Salad!

These carrots were cooked to perfection:

And the French Potato Salad was cool and hearty, as was the Citrus Asparagus:

But Molly (and her sisters) didn't stop there. They also made four varieties of vegan truffles! Frangelico truffles, coconut surprise, almond, and peanut butter date bites:

At the end of the dinner, Sheridan and Drew learned about their surprise honeymoon ... to Jamaica!!!!!

I'm super jealous of their sweet trip (they should be there now!), and the rehearsal spread was fantastic! So my opinion of rehearsal dinners has made a complete 180. I completely approve of them so long as delicious vegan food is involved.

Stay tuned for photos of the wedding (and vegan wedding food!) tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cheeze & Waffles

Sometimes the best meals are weird and simple. A few days ago, I was email chatting with my cookbook's managing editor Cynthia Hopzapfel of Book Publishing Company. She told me "got" my Tofu Chicken Wafflewich (pictured here) because she, too, was a fan of the savory waffle meal. But her favorite treat is waffles and vegan cheeze!

Now I'd never heard of such a thing, but it sounded quite delicious to me. She recommended Leahey Gardens powdered sauce mix for the cheeze, and I have a stockpile of that in my pantry. I could have made homemade waffles, but between Bonnaroo last weekend and my BFF's wedding this weekend, I'm a busy, busy bee. So I bought some frozen Van's Gluten-Free Flax Waffles instead.

Behold Vegan Waffles & Cheeze:

The perfect mix of savory and sweet, this was a surprisingly satisfying breakfast. You could also make it with a simple nutritional yeast sauce if Leahey isn't around.

On that note, I'll see y'all again on Sunday or Monday. Leaving town again tomorrow for my best friend Sheridan's wedding in our Arkansas hometown. She's vegan, so I'm baking her wedding cupcakes (I have to bake 150 on Friday!!). Expect lots of pics later.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spaghetti Bitch

I have long been a fan of the Skinny Bitch empire. Kim and Rory are crude-ass, potty-mouth bitches on a mission to veganize the world. And seeing as how I'm pretty vulgar myself, their approach is right up my alley. So needless to say, I have all their books and exercise videos (I even have that silly Skinny Bitch journal that I never use). So of course, I asked for Kim Barnouin's Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook for Xmas! But I got so many books for Xmas, I'm just now getting around to cooking from it.

The glossy full-color, hardback is full of mouth-watering, healthy vegan recipes. But I'm always a sucker for a simple pasta dish, and this Spaghetti with Spinach in a White Wine Garlic Sauce was begging to be made:

It may not be all that pretty, but it was damn good. The sauce is made from olive oil, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, garlic, white wine, and vegan parm. The wine was Orleans Hill Alexandria, an organic, vegan white blend I purchased at my favorite vegan-friendly wine shop, The Corkscrew.

I served this with a big ole green salad topped with fresh corn, carrots, bacon bits, and Italian dressing. Washed down with more white wine, of course. You have to make use of the rest of the bottle or it will go bad, right? ;-)

What sort of recipes do you gravitate toward when you break open a new cookbook?

Monday, June 13, 2011


Well, I survived Bonnaroo Music Festival once again. Four days of camping in the humid, 90-plus degree Tennessee summer isn't easy, but that's why god made vegan Bloody Marys. A stout tomato-based cocktail at the campsite, followed by lots and lots of water (got to stay hydrated), is the perfect way to face the day at an outdoor music festival.

After enjoying our morning drinks, my friends and I headed into Centeroo — the main festival area with stages, vendors, a water slide, a ferris wheel (above) and other activities — to see NOFX, Loretta Lynn, Florence and the Machine, Arcade Fire (who I didn't like until this past weekend ... their live show is so much better than their recorded stuff), Eninem, Wiz Khalifa, Beats Antique, the Scissor Sisters, and plenty more. Oh, the very best part? Raunchy cult filmmaker John Waters in the comedy tent.

This was my second Bonnaroo. Last year, I was concerned about finding vegan festival food, but this year I knew better. Vegan food abounds at the 'Roo. I did bring some canned goods and sandwich supplies to save money, but I managed to score a few meals from vegan-friendly vendors.

On Friday night, I was craving a tasty snack to enjoy with my special edition Sierra Nevada Bonnaroo Brew. So I grabbed this Veggie Samosa from the Samosa Man cart to nosh on while watching Bassnectar:

It may not be the prettiest shot, but hey, I was shooting with a flash in total darkness at 1:30 a.m. The giant crispy samosa was stuffed with spicy potatoes, peas, and other curried veggies and served with a spicy tomato sauce.

On Saturday, I needed a quick bite in between sets by Wiz Khalifa and Loretta Lynn, so I grabbed this Crunchy Earth Burger (their name, but I like it) from TomKats Catering inside the media hospitality tent:

This hearty black bean patty was so tasty, and you could see bits of corn and other veggies with each bite. I enjoyed it with kettle-cooked Zapp's Cajun Dill Gator Taters.

On Sunday, I couldn't resist the Vegan Daiya Pizza from the Full of Life wood-fired pizza stand:

I had their vegan pizza topped with beets and carrots last year, and it was killer. Here the menu for this year:

And here's the little man who cooked my pizza:

This year's vegan pizza was a little better. Topped with lots of Daiya mozzarella, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, and fresh spinach:

OMG! I stuffed my face with this while I waited an hour for John Waters tickets at the comedy tent. Unfortunately, the pizza didn't last the entire hour. I wish it lasted all day.

Later on Sunday, I was feeling pretty beat. Standing in the John Waters line with blazing sun and no shade took a lot out of me. After downing some much-needed water, I knew fresh produce would make me right again. So I stopped at the smoothie stand for this refreshing Pineapple-Coconut-Banana Smoothie:

There was plenty of vegan food I didn't get to try — BBQ tofu sandwiches, falafel with hummus, vegan burritos, salad from the organic salad cart, Greek veggie pitas, and so much more. I wish every festival was so vegan-friendly, but since Bonnaroo draws more than 60,000 people (many of them vegan hippies), I can understand why they cater to everyone ... including herbivores.