Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Slider Inn

Heh heh, I said "slider inn." Get it? That's the clever name of a fairly new Memphis slider joint. They offer a menu filled with various types of sliders, including a pretty tasty Vegan Slider:

My parents and I ate there on the night after Xmas, and though I'd tried the vegan sliders at a charity event where Slider Inn had catered, I'd never ordered them in the restaurant.

For around $10, you get three large sliders and a large serving of some of the best damn fries in town. The vegan patty is made from brown rice, black beans, beets, jalapeno, and onions, and the burger is topped with sprouts and avocado. They hold together well, and the patty is a nice size for the fluffy slider roll. The avocado is a perfect touch (y'all know how vegans love their avocado!), and the sprouts make me feel all healthy-like.

As for the flavor, I think the patty could use a touch more salt. I brought two of my three patties home, and when I re-heated them, I spritzed them with a little Bragg's. And then they were perfect!

As for the fries, well, I've tried a lot of French fries in this town, and I think I'm qualified to say these are in the top five best in Memphis. I love skinny fries, and these are seasoned with a hint of sugar, which really complements the saltiness.

If you're in the mood for a tiny burger, Slider Inn is probably the only place in Memphis offering vegan sliders. And like I said, add a few sprinkles of salt and you've yourself one fine little patty.

Slider Inn is located at 2117 Peabody Ave. Call 901-725-1155.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Goodbye, Sarah Kramer Calendar

It's with great sadness that I share tonight's meal – the December recipe in Sarah Kramer's 2011 Go Vegan wall calendar. I've made every recipe in this year's calendar and last year's calendar, but it looks as though there is no 2012 Go Vegan wall calendar. It'll be kinda lonely in my kitchen without Sarah's tattoos and adorable kitschery staring out at me from the wall beside my fridge. After two years of calendars, she feels like an old friend.

Thankfully, the December recipe was one of my favorites so far! Sloppy Janes!

These tofu-based sloppy joes were unlike any I've ever had before. And you wanna know why? They have pickles in 'em! Chopped pickles are added to a cooked base of tofu, basmati rice, green peppers, onion, tomato sauce, mustard, and vegan Worcestershire. I've never had pickles in my sloppy joe, but now I won't have them any other way.

I served my messy sandwich with Baked Salt & Pepper Kettle Chips with Green Onion Dip:

The dip is such a naughty cheater snack! It's Tofutti Sour Cream mixed with a packet of Kroger brand Green Onion Dip Mix. The mix is accidentally vegan, but it's still loaded with sinfully delicious nastiness, like partially hydrogenated oils and MSG. It's soooo bad, but it tastes soooo good. I'm starting the Crazy Sexy Diet cleanse on Sunday, so I'm just going all out with junk food for now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

All I Got For Xmas...

So Xmas has come and gone once again, and like most years, this one went pretty well. I started the holiday on Xmas Eve in Arkansas at my parents' house. We open presents on Xmas Eve, so my mama, daddy, and I took turns opening gifts. Oh, and my doggy Datsun and one of my kitties Akasha were there too, and they got a few gifts.

My biggest gift was actually monetary. My parents offered to help me pay Datsun's medical bills after his recent stomach surgery. They also gave me lots of clothes, two seasons of Seaquest DSV on DVD (yes, I'm a super nerd), Vegan Pie in the Sky, a new copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (my old one was falling apart from overuse), the Happy Herbivore 2012 calendar, and this awesome Mio Active Heart Rate Monitor:

This monitor not only measures active heart rate, but it also acts as a pedometer and measures calories intake and output. I've been wearing the monitor since Xmas Eve. I've only been taking it off to shower. I've even worn it while sleeping, and I've actually been burning calories in my sleep! I burned 33 calories last night, and according to the pedometer function, I took 803 steps in my sleep. I've been told that I kick in my sleep, and now there's proof.

After we exchanged presents, I met up with my BFF Sheridan (she blogs at Vegan In Arkansas ... check it out), whose family also lives in Jonesboro. She gave me Vegan Diner (yea!), salt and pepper shaker wands (magical!), and framed pictures of us from her wedding. I gave her a jar of my green tomato chutney, the Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions, and Vegan Pie in the Sky:

On Xmas morning, my family always has a big ole breakfast. It's usually at Granny's house, but my Pa was in the hospital over Xmas. So mama took on the cooking duties this year. Here's my plate — Tofu Scramble, Veggie Bacon, Biscuits & Gravy, and a Hash Brown:

After breakfast, I made the five-hour drive to Lewisburg, Tennessee where my partner Paul's parents live ... only it took me seven hours to get there because I got way lost. I completely forgot to photograph dinner, but I had Field Roast Smoked Tomato Quarter Loaf (which I brought with me from Memphis) with sweet potatoes, a baked white potato, and green beans. Paul's mom cooks everything with meat juice, but she always pulls me out a few veggies before the animal fat is added.

I got two pairs of PJ pants, some iTunes gifts cards, and some much-needed bath towels from Paul's family. I didn't take very many pictures there, but here's one of me and Paul in front of the Xmas tree.

What was your favorite Xmas gift this year?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gobi Man-what?

Happy Solstice! I'll share pictures from our Solstice Celebration with the pets next week. I'm too tired to sort through them tonight. So instead, I'll leave y'all with this post about my favorite Indian dish — Gobi Manchurian:

It's actually considered Indo-Chinese. But it's served in Indian restaurants, so I feel like it's okay to call it my fave Indian dish.

I first tried these fried cauliflower florets in spicy tomato sauce at Woodlands, a now-defunct totally-vegetarian Indian restaurant on Hacks Cross in Memphis. Y'all know I love fried food, and there's really no better vegetable than cauliflower (well, except for carrots). Plus, the spicy sauce really makes this dish special. When I saw that Robin Robertson had published her Gobi Manchurian recipe in last month's VegNews, I knew I must make it!

The batter is made from chickpea flour, and the cauliflower is breaded and fried in oil. Then you make a spicy tomato sauce using tomato puree, scallions, garlic, ginger, and spices. Oh, and there's sriracha in there. Gotta have sriracha in there. This stuff was amazing, even the next day when the fried cauliflower was kinda soggy.

On the side, I made the Savory Chutney Muffins from the Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions:

I used my homemade green tomato chutney instead of the mango chutney called for in the recipe, and I think that may have affected the texture. My chutney isn't very wet, so these muffins were a little dry. Delicious, but kinda dry. Besides chutney, these are made with tahini, whole wheat pastry flour, sesame oil, coriander, and cumin. They were tasty and the perfect accompaniment to spicy gobi manchurian. But next time, I'm adding extra liquid or fat for a moist muffin.

Happy Holidays! I'll resume posting on Monday night...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Imagine Family Xmas

When Imagine Vegan Cafe opened in April, I knew I'd be dining there often. It's Memphis' only vegan restaurant, and they specialize in my favorite thing — completely unpretenious comfort food. But I had no idea I'd be eating there twice a week, nor did I realize I'd gain a whole new set of friends out of the deal. But that's exactly what happened.

A few friends and I made a plan to eat there one Wednesday night back in May, and those friends invited their friends and so on. We had about 10 people there that first night, and we decided to do it again the next week. And the next week. And the next week. You get the idea. When Imagine started serving brunch, the same group (we call ourselves the Imagine Supper Club) decided to meet up weekly for that meal too. In the process, I've made some new close friends and we've all gotten really tight with Adam and Kristie, the amazing couple who owns the restaurant.

Last Sunday, they hosted the first annual Imagine Holiday Party, and many from the supper club went. There was a $15 cover for all-you-eat appetizers and desserts, plus fun holiday music performed by Adam and his local musician dad Terry Mike Jeffrey. Adam's the one in the back playing drums:

And here's Kristie – mother of three and extraordinary vegan cook!

Earlier this year, she popped her third baby out and went straight back to working in the restaurant. She's a pro. Besides all of their human babies, they also have a pet pig, a donkey, and somewhere around 17 dogs (some of whom are fosters) on their land in Mississippi:

The holiday party featured a buffet line that Kristie and her sister Kimberly kept stocked all night. There was spinach dip, vegan buffalo wings, chili and chips, veggies and homemade vegan ranch, sausage balls, hush puppies, pigs in blankets, and little crackers topped with eggless egg salad:

Here's my friend Mike's plate #1 with crackers with "egg" salad, sausage balls, and hush puppies:

And my plate #2 (I had three plates of appetizers!) with a pig in a blanket, chips and chili, a hush puppy, an "egg" salad cracker, and carrots with ranch:

The all-you-can-eat desserts were prepared by Karina Khan, a Nashville-based vegan baker who delivers fresh treats to Imagine once a week (for my Nashville readers, Karina also prepares desserts for Wild Cow):

She made tiny Chocolate Pomegranate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes:

And tiny Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes and Vanilla Almond Cupcakes:

Plus, this awesome "Happy Holidays" Chocolate Sheet Cake:

And if that wasn't enough sugar, there were also Chocolate Chip Cookies:

I'm not ashamed to admit that tried nearly one of everything. I may have skipped a few cupcakes when I realized I was going into a sugar coma.

After everyone was stuffed, Terry Mike Jeffrey asked the audience to participate in a "Twelve Days of Christmas" sing-a-long:

Isn't that just adorable? I'm tellin' y'all, I really felt like I was at Adam and Kristie's family Xmas party since so many in attendance were their family members and long-time fans of Adam's dad. I can't think of a better way to spend the holidays than with delicious vegan food, friends, and the Imagine family.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Favorite Breakfast

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for me. I always wake up famished, and I must eat within an hour of waking or I feel like I'm going to die. So I prefer a hearty breakfast over a light one. Savory, warm morning meals are the way to go.

And while I love tofu scrambles and hash browns and the occasional bowl of peanut butter oats, nothing beats Biscuits & Sausage Gravy:

I used my recipes for Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage-Sage Gravy, both from my upcoming Southern vegan cookbook (due out in April). Simple, hearty, delicious. The sausage bits in the gravy are made from crumbled Gimme Lean, by the way. To make this breakfast easier, I make a batch of biscuits and a pot of gravy on Sunday night and re-heat each weekday morning. Since the gravy thickens in the fridge, I add a little soymilk or almond milk when I re-heat individual portions in the microwave.

At Imagine Vegan Cafe, Memphis' only vegan restaurant, they serve something called the Memphis Slam at brunch — biscuits topped with gravy, tofu scramble, sausage, and their homemade vegan cheese sauce. Nothing beats that breakfast.

What's your favorite breakfast?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Xmas at Me-Maw's

Every year on the weekend before Xmas, my mom's side of the family gathers at my Me-Maw's for an early holiday celebration. Although my Granny (my dad's mom) is famous on my blog for veganizing everything, my Me-Maw doesn't carry nearly as much for cooking and isn't so interested in learning to veganize.

But that's okay because my mom always makes me special vegan dishes to eat at Me-Maw's. This year, she made me an Asparagus, Rice, & Cheese Casserole using Daiya cheese. It was like a broccoli rice casserole, but with asparagus instead:

And she made another Hash Brown Casserole, which was my favorite dish this past Thanksgiving. Hash browns, mama's homemade cream of celery soup, Daiya cheese, and soy butter all baked together. Yum! It's topped with potato chips rather than the traditional cornflakes because we like it better that way:

Every year, my mama makes me a special batch of Vegan Dressin', the same stuff we eat at Thanksgiving. I only get her famous cornbread dressin' twice a year, and even though the two holidays are close together, I don't mind. Mama's dressin' is the best on the planet:

And there was Corn and Peppers with Earth Balance:

Mama also made a vegan cherry pie for dessert, but I scarfed my slice down before I remembered to take a photograph.

After lunch, we opened gifts. Me-Maw gave me a cute blue cardigan, which I wore today. And then we started a new tradition. I was desperately in need of a haircut, so I asked my cousin Melissa to bring along her hair supplies. After she trimmed my hair, my cousin's girlfriend Anna asked Melissa for a cut. And then Me-Maw said she needed one too:

And finally my cousin Kile got in line:

By the end of the evening, we all had full bellies and fabulous new haircuts. I see a new tradition in the works. From this year on, Xmas haircuts all around ... well, so long as Melissa agrees to it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Low-Fat Tempeh Wings

I've eaten a lot of vegan wings in my day. Whether they're made from tofu, tempeh, seitan, or Gardein, they're always amazing. I love that rich, hot, buttery sauce that sticks to your fingers (and sometimes your chin). When I make homemade wing sauces, I always use equal parts hot sauce and soy margarine. And I use a LOT of margarine.

But little did I know that you don't really need all that fat to make delicious wings. Sure, it adds to the flavor, and maybe it's best to stick to full fat versions when serving a crowd. But the low-fat Buffalo Tempeh in Appetite for Reduction is perfect for everyday eatin':

The sauce on these tempeh wings substitutes vegetable broth for the soy margarine. It doesn't make for a thick coating like the margarine does, but that's okay because you marinate the tempeh in the sauce. And then while the tempeh is pan-frying, you pour any remaining marinade into the skillet and it absorbs into the tempeh.

I served my guilt-free wings with Leahey Gardens vegan macaroni & cheese and a hearty scoop of slow-simmered collard greens and turnips.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cacao Riot!!

I like my chocolate like I like my beer: Dark. Really dark. So imagine my excitement when a surprise package arrived in the mail from Sweetriot, a New York-based chocolate maker that specializes in organic, fair-trade dark chocolate.

They sent me six of their new riotBars! Two each of their 60% Dark Chocolate with Crunchy Cacao Nibs, their 70% Dark Chocolate, and their 85% Dark Chocolate:

The first thing I noticed about these bars is the little "21 calories per square" printed on each label. As a calorie counter, I usually have to count the squares in each bar and do math to figure out how many calories are in a tiny square. And as much as I love calorie counting, I sorta hate doing math. Sweetriot did the work for me! At 21 calories, I can indulge in several squares with no guilt. Plus, dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, so I like to think of it as medicine.

I opened one of each bar, and after sampling a few squares for myself, I shared the rest with my co-workers. The office fave was probably the 60% Dark with Nibs. Some of my co-workers weren't fans of the dark, dark stuff, but this had enough sweetness to please most all palettes. Plus, the crunchy nibs were fun. I always love chocolate bars with chunks of stuff in them, and these satisfied that desire.

The second office fave was the 70% Dark. I really loved this one too. It still has enough sweetness to please omni milk chocolate eaters, but it has that slight bitter edge that comes with quality dark chocolate.

The few dark chocolate connoisseurs in the office (I consider myself among that group) really loved the 85% Dark too. I love slightly bitter, earthy flavors, like those in spicy red wines, stout beers, and dark roasted coffee. This chocolate tastes like pure cacao. One co-worker who said he wasn't typically fond of the very dark chocolate said this one was much more smooth than he expected. A few were put off by the bitter edge, but super dark chocolate isn't for everyone.

These bars would make an excellent Xmas gift if you're still trying to figure out what to buy your friends. Whole Foods carries these, as well as many indie health food shops. Or you can order here. You can be sure your money is going to a good place because this small company uses recyclable packaging decorated with artwork by emerging artists. Plus, they're the first and only chocolate company to offset all of its carbon emissions.

In another news, our blogger friend Aimee of the Global Vegan is trying to win a yoga teaching scholarship. But she needs your vote! Click here to read about Aimee's journey with yoga and to learn how to vote.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Ciao Bella

Italian restaurants are pretty hit or miss for vegans. Usually miss. Many use egg-based, fresh pastas, and that rules out pretty much everything except a bland platter of marinara-topped penne pasta (because penne pasta isn't usually made from fresh egg pasta). But there's one Italian restaurant in Memphis looking to change that stereotype.

Ciao Bella, a dimly-lit romantic restaurant hidden away inside a shopping center in East Memphis, is looking to increase their offerings for people with special diets, namely vegans, vegetarians, and the gluten-free crowd. They generously offered to provide me samples of their new vegan offerings last night, and I was more than impressed.

For starters, we were served Vegan Grilled Mozzarella Over a Fresh Tomato with Balsamic Sauce and a Tomato Broth:

This large hunk of vegan cheese (I'm guessing it was Follow Your Heart) was lightly grilled, so it had a slight hint of char-grilled taste. But somehow Chef Jonathan Steenerson kept the cheese from melting. It was drizzled with a tangy-sweet balsamic reduction. That tomato under the cheese came from a Woodson Ridge Farms, a local farm where Ciao Bella sources most of its vegetables. The chef told us all the vegetables we were served were hand-picked that very morning!

The next course was Spinach Fettucine with Roasted Almond & Chickpea Pesto in an Acorn Squash:

Wow! I'd never in a million years think to serve pasta in a squash, but what a good idea! With each bite of pasta, we scooped up a little squash flesh. The pesto was delectable. I'm so impressed that an Italian restaurant that serves meat would create a vegan pesto. Chef Steenerson really knows what he's doing with vegan food.

Next we were served Broiled Tofu with Brussels Sprout Puree and Purple Carrots:

Now, let me say this. I love tofu, and there's nothing I appreciate more than a chef who knows that the simple, clean flavors of fresh tofu deserve to shine. This tofu was done just right. It wasn't marinated, as far as I can tell. It was simply broiled to perfection, and the texture was spot on. With each bite of tofu, I scooped up a little of the uber-flavorful Brussels puree. Oh, and the purple carrots?! Magnificent.

By this point, we were stuffed. But there was yet another entree course — Vegan Pizza with Pine Nuts, Onion, Tomato, and Garlic with Olive Oil and a Balsamic Reduction:

This is the kind of pizza that needs no fake cheese. Y'all know I love the vegan cheese, but this pizza was better without it. The crust was light, airy, and somewhat reminiscent of puff pastry, and the basic toppings really stayed true to the light crust. Lucky for me, I still have some leftover since we were too stuffed to eat the whole pie.

Though we barely had room for dessert, we quickly devoured all of our Limoncello Sorbet:

Unlike most lemon sorbets I've tried, this one had a coconut base so it was thick and creamy like a dairy-based gelato. But the crisp lemon flavors stood out. I wanted about five more bowls of this. Ciao Bella is fortunately located next to Memphis' most popular local yogurt joint, Yolo. So they use Yolo's equipment to make their signature sorbets and gelatos.

Y'all know I tend to stick to comfort fare when dining out, but this food just might convert me into a gourmand. I'm always blown away when a non-vegan chef knows how to prepare stellar vegan food.

If you're planning a romantic vegan date or family dinner, Ciao Bella is definitely the most vegan-friendly Italian option in town. Chef Steenerson said he can create most of these dishes on any night. They're not on the menu yet, but if you tell your server you're vegan, he'll whip up something special. If you have a chance to call ahead, that might help too. For my gluten-free friends: Chef Steenerson said his first shipment of gluten-free pasta arrives today, so he can accommodate you too!

Ciao Bella is located at 565 Erin Drive. Call 901-205-2500.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Peppermint Patty Shots!

No party is complete without shots!! Even an innocent little vegan potluck can turn into a throwdown ho-down with a healthy dose of liquor. So in the final installment of my weekend holiday potluck series (see yesterday's post for a full recap of Saturday's vegan potluck at my house), I'll focus on the after-party.

Once our dinner and dessert plates were cleared, it was time to break out the peppermint schnapps. My co-worker Hannah couldn't make the potluck, but she did offer a fun suggestion for post-dinner libations — Peppermint Patty Shots!

These are so simple, and they really do taste like a peppermint patty ... well, an alcoholic peppermint patty.

Simply combine one to two ounces of peppermint schnapps with a little chocolate syrup in a shot glass. Mix well, and top with vegan whipped topping. I used Soy Whip, and we added the Christmas sprinkles for that special festive look. Cheers!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Vegan Holiday Potluck

On Saturday night, I hosted a vegan holiday potluck at my house. It's hopefully the second in a monthly series of vegan potlucks that my friends and I will take turns hosting. I made three recipes from Dynise Balcavage's Celebrate Vegan — Brown Rice Christmas Maki, Peppermint Bark, and a French Hanukkah bread called Rue de Rosier Pain D'Epices. You can see pictures of those dishes in last night's review post of Dynise's new cookbook. But this post will focus on what everybody else brought to the party.

We started the evening with a few libations. I made Peppermint Martinis using vodka and Stirrings Peppermint Martini Mix. And yes, I'm wearing my Xmas apron:

And here's a close-up of my martini. I was afraid the mix would be too minty, like drinking mouthwash. But it was the perfect blend of minty and sweet. The candy rimming sugar is also from Stirrings:

Leslie brought homemade Whiskey Wassail, a spiked cider made with apples, cloves, and a whole orange!

Stephanie (Poopie Bitch on the PPK) brought the Broccoli Quiche from Vegan Brunch. Oh my was this good! Plus, Steph is an expert crust maker. Look at those perfect little indentations!

Greg made Vegan Cheese Balls in Puff Pastry. These may have been ugly as hell, but they were actually delicious. Greg made a homemade tofu-based cheese, sprinkled in some bacon bits, and wrapped the balls in puff pastry. He also stuffed a few potatoes with the cheese mix.

Shay knows I love her Vegan Pizza, so she brought one of her famous pies topped with homemade tomato-shallot sauce, kalamata olives, vegan cheese, and spinach:

And because she's awesome, Shay also made Ratatouille!

Lara didn't have time to cook, but she stopped by Whole Foods and picked up a few dishes that might as well have been homemade. This Asian Noodle Salad had a sesame dressing and shredded carrots:

Lara also picked up some Roasted Acorn Squash with Garlic from the Whole Foods deli:

Mike never comes to a party without his prized Chex Mix, which is always chock full of nuts. I like picking out the macadamia nuts:

Most of my guests were vegan or vegetarian, but our friend Steve is actually on the paleo diet, which is pretty much the opposite of a vegan. He eats like a caveman, but he "cheated" at the potluck and ate a few of his no-no's: grains and sugar. We'll corrupt him one of these days ...

Steve brought a paleo-friendly platter of Raw Date Balls! These little balls were made with chopped dates, nuts, coconut, and cocoa powder. Shay quickly named them Shreddy Balls since some contain shredded coconut:

Besides bringing that awesome broccoli quiche, Stephanie also made tiny Vegan Egg Nog Cupcakes!

And Mike veganized his recipe for Snickerdoodles. Mike is a pescatarian, so he usually makes these with butter and eggs. But he went out to Whole Foods and bought Ener-G Egg Replacer and Earth Balance just for these!

As you can imagine, we were all stuffed after this massive meal. It's a good thing I'm going on Kris Carr's "Crazy Sexy Diet" in January. I'll need some detoxing after all of this!