Sunday, September 30, 2012

My First Booksigning!

I held my first Cookin' Crunk booksigning/release party this weekend at Imagine Vegan Cafe. Owners Kristie and Adam were gracious enough to let me steal one of their tables to peddle my books, and they even donated some samples from their appetizer and dessert menus to serve alongside a few samples I'd made from the book.

The event lasted from 3 to 6 p.m., and over the three hours, I sold 23 books! I told myself that I'd be happy if I sold 15, so I exceeded that goal. Here I am signing away:

I made my Deviled Tofu Bites from Cookin' Crunk to hand out. Vegans, vegetarians, and even some omnis gave them a try, and people were just blown away by how much they taste like deviled eggs. The secret is in the black salt, of course:

I also brought along a Crock-Pot filled with my Country Potato Soup from Cookin' Crunk, which I served in little sample soup cups. It's loaded with veggie bacon, and most people were pleasantly surprised by the smoky flavor:

Kristie brought out a plate of Imagine's hot wings and their eggless egg salad for people to try, but I had already put the camera away, so I didn't get a shot before they were gone. I did, however, get a shot of Stephanie's amazing mini Peanut Butter Bombs and Triple Chocolate Cupcakes. Stephanie of Swell Baked Goods provides the desserts for Imagine, and Kristie gave us a few free cuppies to hand out:

About mid-way through the signing, a group of my close friends came in wearing Cookin' Crunk tee-shirts! They joked about having shirts made, but I didn't believe they'd do it. It looked like I had a fan club!!

Here's a close-up. That picture, by the way, is me in my Mexican wrestler costume from last Halloween:

The event was a great success, and I'm so thankful to everyone who came out and bought a book. And thanks to Imagine for letting me set up there (and for feeding me vegan Philly cheesesteak and beer after the signing!). Also, thanks to my friends Cassi and Greg for staying the whole three hours to keep me company and dish out soup.

My next signing will be on Tuesday, Oct. 2nd at the Booksellers at Laurelwood from 6 to 7 p.m. We'll have samples there too! Stop by if you're in town!

Also, WREG still hasn't posted the video of my TV appearance from Thursday. I'm not sure what's up with that, but if it ever goes online, I'll share it here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

90s Fusion Cuisine

Crunk News
  • My first booksigning/release party will be at Imagine Vegan Cafe (2156 Young) on Saturday, Sept. 29th from 3 to 6 p.m. I'll be sampling my Deviled Tofu Bites (vegan deviled eggs!!) and my Country Potato Soup. Stop in if you're in town! Here's the Facebook invite.
  • Also, I appeared on Live@9 on WREG Channel 3 this morning, and the segment went well! I cooked some BBQ Tempeh & Carrot sandwiches from the book. But for some reason, they've not yet posted the video. But I've been assured that they will, so I promise to share that as soon as it's up.
For tonight's post, I actually want to talk about my next cookbook project, a collection of veganized trendy recipes from the past century. It'll have recipes separated by decade, but I'm not working on any one decade at a time because I'm the kind of girl who likes to hop around. I did a few 80s recipes last week, a few 70s recipes over the weekend, and this week, I made a very 1990s chili.

The 90s were all about fusion cuisine. Let's take a bunch of flavors that you wouldn't think would go together and mix 'em together anyway. Let's just be cray! One of my favorite flavor combos is chili and chocolate, and although Mexicans have been enjoying that combo for decades, Americans went all gaga over chocolate and chili in the 90s. Thankfully, that trend that stuck around.

I made this Dark Chocolate Chili for the 90s chapter:

I used two ounces of an 85% dark chocolate bar, and oh my god. That deep, dark chocolate gave the otherwise regular old chili the most sensuous, smooth, and complex flavor. I've made chili with chocolate before, but I'd never used quite that much chocolate. The more, the better.

As for the rest of the chili, there's my homemade TVP beef, black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, and your usual chili stuff. Oh, and some extra hot jalapenos from my pepper garden! It's great bare naked, but I topped mine with red onions and Galaxy Mexi-Shreds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fave Breakfast + New Plates

Quick post tonight: I have to get to bed pronto because I have to be at the WREG Channel 3 studio bright 'n' early for my live cooking segment. I'll be cooking BBQ Tempeh & Carrot Sandwiches topped Creamy Poppyseed Coleslaw from Cookin' Crunk on the Live @9 morning show. If you're local, tune in! Hopefully, they'll post the segment on their site later in the day and I can share here.

This morning, I had one of my favorite breakfasts from Cookin' Crunk. It's not explicitly Southern, but I just had to include it in the book because it's so easy and delicious. It's Tofu Cottage Cheese served on whole wheat toast with Marmite:

Before going vegan, I always loved cottage cheese sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. The crumbled tofu mimics the curds in cottage cheese and a tad bit of vegan mayo and vegan yogurt give it the creamy texture. I love serving this with Marmite because the saltiness and the creaminess are the perfect complement to crispy toast.

Check out my new plates! My friends Andy and Jordan got me two new sets of plates and a new set of bowls for my housewarming party. I just love these! Most all of my plates are vintage from the 70s, 80s, or 90s. And while I love my retro stuff, its nice to live in the now sometimes with modern dishes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Baked Goods in the Mail!

There are few things more gratifying that receiving fresh, baked goods in the mail. I receive free vegan products to review all the time, and I appreciate every single thing. But when I received a package from Starry Lane Bakery, I knew I was in for something special. These aren't pre-packaged vegan goods. These are fresh-from-the-bakery vegan goods.

Starry Lane Bakery is located miles and miles and miles away from Memphis in sunny San Diego. But they ship anywhere! They're not a vegan bakery on purpose. They're an allergen-free bakery, but since eggs and dairy are among the top allergens, they don't use those. So their goods are vegan by default. Starry Lane also avoids gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy.

Starry Lane was so generous with their samples. I received a massive box of cookies that I'm still working through after sharing some with co-workers. There was Chocolate Chip Cookie, Old Fashioned Oatmeal Raisin, and Oatmeal Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookie:

Since they're gluten-free, the cookies were ever-so-slightly crumblier, which resulted in a few broken cookies. But most were intact, and the broken ones were still delicious. My favorite was the Oatmeal Triple Chocolate Chunk; chunks of Enjoy Life vegan chocolate mix with oats and gluten-free flours for a not-too-sweet-but-just-sweet-enough cookie treat. Plus, these giant cookies were only 110 calories each! Guilt-free!

The Chocolate Chip were a close second because I will always choose chocolate chips over raisins. But the Oatmeal Raisin were perfectly sophisticated and delicious.

But that's not all! Starry Lane also included a box of their macaroons. There's Vanilla Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate, and Sweet Orange:

Now, forget what I just said about always choosing chocolate first. I actually loved the Sweet Orange the best. It was a vanilla macaroon made with coconut milk, sugar, and shredded coconut and topped with a citrus-heavy frosting scented with orange peel. I'm a huge fan of citrus!

Next up were the Vanilla Chocolate Chip. It's like a cookie in macaroon form! And the Dark Chocolate were also delightful. Again, they're made with soy-free, vegan Enjoy Life Chocolate.

The most beautiful thing about these desserts? Anybody can eat them! Vegans, the gluten-free crowd, people allergic to soy or nuts, and people who just eat. All desserts should be so inclusive.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fondue Party!!

Back in July, I bought my first house with a little down-payment help from my daddy. I've been renting this place for 4 years, and things got a little sticky when it came down to "buy it or leave it." Having moved from apartment to apartment for the past 13 years, I figured it was time to settle down. I'm tired of moving. I'm tired of living with the lack of housing security that comes with renting. And I have 8 pets (6 cats, 2 dogs).

Besides, my house is in a great emerging arts and historic district. It's affordable, and it has loads of closet space. Even though the deal closed in July, we waited until September to have a housewarming party because I've been so darn busy.

And busy little bee that I am, I just had to use this party as an excuse to work on my next cookbook, a collection of veganized trendy foods from the last century. For the 1970s chapter, I knew I wanted lots of fondue. So I invited all my friends over and made four kinds of fondue for snacking pleasure.

This Pizza Fondue was, by far, my fave. It's basically just melted Daiya mozzarella mixed with pizza sauce and herbs. We dipped in bread cubes and Tofurky Italian sausages:

The Beer Cheese Fondue came in a close second. It's a nooch-based dip made with good beer (I used Sam Adams Boston Lager). For dippin', we used bread, Tofurky sausages, and chunks of fried tofu:

You can't have a fondue housewarming without dessert fondue. I made a Lemon Fondue for dippin' gingersnaps and strawberries. This is the only fondue that still needs some work. It was delicious, but I think I used too much flour to thicken. After 30 minutes or so of warming in the fondue pot, this stuff hardened into a solid glob. I kept having to add soymilk or water to thin it out:

And finally, I just had to make the standard Chocolate Hazelnut Fondue. This one was a huge hit with fresh strawberries and pineapple:

My friend Stephanie, who some of you may know as Poopie Bitch from the PPK, bakes vegan cakes for a living. So she brought mini versions of my favorite flavors — chocolate peanut butter bombs and coconut cupcakes!

We had lots of boxed wine (Washington Hills merlot ... it's vegan!). But I also made some Aqua Fresca with fresh lemon, cucumber, and mint for my teetotatler friends.

By the night's end, all the fondue was gone! And so were the dippin' things! And of course, so were the cupcakes. There was a wee bit of wine left though. My friends may love to party, but they love to eat even more.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Food & New Hours at Cosmic Coconut

I've blogged about Cosmic Coconut a few times before. It's a little all-vegan, all-organic smoothie and juice bar in East Memphis. It's been open for over a year, and I hate to admit that I've only been there a handful of times. They serve the BEST smoothies in town, but up until very recently, the shop closed very early each day.

Since I live in Midtown and work downtown, both about 20 to 25 minutes away from Cosmic Coconut, it didn't make sense for me to lunch there. And it was always closed by the time I left the office for the day. But Cosmic Coconut recently expanded their hours, and they're now staying open until 8:30 p.m.!

That makes me happy. But what makes me even happier is Cosmic Coconut's addition of hot food items. Before, they mostly served smoothies and fresh juices, as well as grab-and-go items like raw kale chips, raw coconut cookies, and hummus wraps. But they've introduced daily lunch specials and an available-anytime vegan grilled cheese!

The lunch specials are still offered at dinnertime if there's any food left. But it's best to call first to verify. Each day has a theme (like Tempeh Tuesday and Souper Sunday). I stopped in on Friday (Burger & Friesday) to try Cosmic Coconut's homemade Black Bean Burger:

It was served with Sweet Potatoes with Onions and Herbs:

The lady at the counter informed me that the fries didn't work out, so they had mashed sweet potatoes instead. And that was fine by me! These savory taters tasted just like fall, which seemed appropriate since this weekend was the equinox.

The burger was amazing! It had quinoa and black beans, but I couldn't tell what else. It was stuffed inside a sprouted grain bun and topped with avocado, Daiya pepperjack, tomato and onions.

To learn more about Cosmic Coconut's new menu, check out their Facebook page.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Slow Cookin'

Confession: I was asked to be on a "virtual book tour" for Robin Robertson's new cookbook, Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker. Last week! Yes, I was scheduled to review this book last week. But last week was CRAZY with cooking for Pecha Kucha and trying to pull together a last-minute cover story at work.

And I know what you're thinking: The whole point of a slow cooker recipe is to save time when you're too busy to spend much time in the kitchen. But making any recipe involves planning, and I knew that what I wanted to make from this book involved two recipes. So I asked for an extension, and my new review date is today.

Now that I've had some time to play in the kitchen, I've discovered something beautiful. You can make a stew with a biscuit topping IN THE SLOW COOKER! Yes, that would be a slow cooker pot pie. When I saw Robin's recipe for Rustic Potpie Topped with Chive Biscuits, there was no question about what I'd try first.

I know this isn't the sexiest picture, but stuff isn't always very pretty in the Crock Pot bowl. Stuff gets stuck to the sides and it dries. But nonetheless, this was one damn good potpie. The potpie part is made from seitan, potatoes, carrots, and a gravy made from tomato sauce and herbs. The topping is made by dropping wet, chive-flecked biscuit dough onto the hot stew and allowing the pot to steam the bread. Amazing!

Here's a much prettier shot of my potpie on a plate:

That big wheaty thing on the left is a biscuit, and the smaller wheaty things are chunks of homemade seitan. I also used Robin's Seitan in the Slow Cooker recipe for this. I've tried all kinds of ways to make seitan — boiling, steaming, baking — but this was the first time I'd attempted making it in the slow cooker. The texture was very similar to the boiled seitan method, which is what I typically make. It's soft, yet still chewy.

This was only the first recipe I've tried from Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, but I have bookmarked a ton. There are 200 recipes in here, and so many sound delicious. I'm intrigued by Lasagna Primavera (lasagna in a slow cooker!!!), Mom-Style Vegan Meatloaf, and Hoison and Miso-Braised Tofu. There's a whole chapter on making stuffed veggies in the slow cooker, like stuffed bell peppers and stuffed squash. And there are even instructions for slow cooker tofu scramble in the breakfast chapter.

And let's not forget dessert! I've only ever made slow cooker dessert once — a pear cake — and it was pretty tasty. But Robin's recipes take sweet endings to the next level. I mean, Three-Way Pumpkin Bread Pudding! Chocolate Truffle Cake! Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cheesecake! No way!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Heart the 80s

Although I'm busy promoting my current cookbook, Cookin' Crunk, I'm also working hard on the next book, a collection of veganized trendy foods of the past century. So far, I've been focusing on the 50s and 60s because those decades are kinda sexy. But the book will also include dishes from more modern times, like the 80s and 90s.

I was born in 1980. I grew up eating Pop-Tarts, Pop Rocks, and (my personal fave) Franco American macaroni and cheese in a can (anyone remember that stuff? God, I loved that). Anyway, I created a few 80s dishes this week, one of which was Blackened Tofu:

In my 80s research, I've been running across a lot of recipes for blackened fish or blackened chicken, so why not blackened tofu? It's just marinated, baked tofu coated in spices like chili powder, cayenne, and garlic powder. I did learn one lesson though. Cut back the cayenne. I love spicy food, so I used a whole teaspoon of cayenne for one pound of tofu. It was okay for me, but I know it's way to spicy for a normal palette. I'll work on that. Recipes come about by trail and error.

On the side, I made one of my very favorite 80s recipes — Ramen Noodle Slaw:

My mom makes Ramen slaw every Thanksgiving, and I just LOVE THIS STUFF! Mainly because I'm a Ramen addict (and yes, I always capitalize Ramen because it's that glorious). Anyway, it's cabbage, carrots, and green onions mixed with crunchy Ramen noodles, sunflower seeds, and almonds. The dressing is unlike most other Ramen slaw recipes I've seen because I use WAY less oil and butter. And I retain the seasoning packet because why would you want to throw that goodness out?

What 80s foods would you like to see veganized? I'm up for a challenge and I am willing to try to make homemade versions of packaged foods that were popular back then. In the 80s, everything came in a box or a bag.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sweet Taters for Breakfast

Time for my weekly Cookin' Crunk plug! This week, I made my Sweet Potato Hash from the book for breakfast:

It's a hash made with grated sweet taters, onions, spices, and vegan beef (and you can either use the frozen crumbles or make my homemade TVP beef). By the way, fun fact: My publisher requested that I use "TSP" instead of "TVP" in the book. Apparently, "TVP" (which stands for "textured vegetable protein") is a registered trademark, so "TSP" (for "textured soy protein") is a safer bet.

Anyway, I like to eat my Sweet Tater Hash with toast (this time spread with hot pepper jelly) and orange juice.

Speaking of Cookin' Crunk, Joni Newman's giveaway of the book is still going on at Just the Food. Head over there if you haven't already entered.

Also, my first booksigning is scheduled for Saturday, September 29th from 3 to 6 p.m. at Imagine Vegan Cafe! Yea! Check out the poster! And if you live in Memphis, please plan to be there. We'll get crunk and have a big ole party.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm a Vegan Cheese Snob

When I tell omnis that I'm vegan, I get asked one of two questions. The first one goes without saying because, if you're a vegan or vegetarian, you've heard it a million-and-one times. Okay, okay, I'll say it. "How do you get your protein?" A co-worker recently called that question the vegan equivalent of the drunk guy in the bar screaming "Play some Skynyrd!" at the cover band. It's gonna happen. Nothing you can do but grin and bear it.

But the other inevitable query has gotten more and more fun to answer in recent years. When people ask "How do you live without cheese?," my answer is simple: "My cheese is better than yours." Of course that wasn't always the case. Remember the dark ages of Vegan Rella? But in today's Daiya-driven vegan world, the cheesy options are endless, and I really do believe many of them taste better than dairy cheese. VegNews Magazine even coined 2012 "The Year of Vegan Cheese." If vegans are susceptible to foodie trends, cheese would be ours this year.

After all, the hottest new vegan book is one dedicated to making your own cultured, gourmet cheese. Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner takes vegan cheese-making to a whole new level, and it's getting TONS of buzz right now in the vegan world. Gone are the days of processing some cashews and calling it a day. Miyoko shows us how to make our own rejuvelac using sprouted grains and how to culture a nut- or-yogurt-based cheese so that it has that same exact flavor that aged dairy cheese has.

So we can have all the taste of fancy, aged cheese without harming any cute little cows. That's why I think my cheese is better. It tastes as good or better, and I can eat it with a clear conscience. If omnis can be cheese snobs, so can us vegans.

When I first flipped through Miyoko's book, I wanted to make everything — sharp cheddar, brie, boursin, pub cheddar, and air-dried gouda. But I was drawn to the recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo with Gruyere & Mushrooms, which called for Miyoko's Soft Gruyere. But first I had to make the rejuvelac.

Rejuvelac is a probiotic-filled, fermented liquid made from sprouted grains. In Miyoko's recipe, you can use brown rice, millet, oat groats, quinoa, and several other grains. But I went with brown rice since that's what I had on hand. It took about four days before the little grains sprouted these tiny tails. How cute!

Next, the sprouts have to be cultured in water for one to three days. The liquid takes on a pungent odor that smells like stinky cheese:

When the rejuvelac is cultured, you strain out the sprouts. And then the liquid is used in cheese recipes to add that special cheese flavor and texture. This Soft Gruyere was made from rejuvelac, cashews, miso, oil, nooch, and xanthan gum:

Many of Miyoko's recipes are for hard, sliceable cheeses. But since this gruyere would be the basis for a pasta sauce, the hardening step wasn't necessary. Instead, it's a spreadable consistency.

Easy peasy. It just took about a week to make the cheese, and the rest was a piece of cake. The recipe in the book for Fettuccine Alfredo with Gruyere & Mushrooms simply calls for melting down the gruyere with water and serving it over pasta topped with sauteed mushrooms:

Now, I've had a lot of vegan alfredo sauces over the years, and I've loved every single one. But most were tofu-based rather than cashew cheese-based, and none had that distinct tang of cultured cheese. But this did! And the thicker texture of melted cashew cheese was more on par with that of melted Parmesan.

I'm really excited about cheese-making, and I've already planned to make Miyoko's Fresh Mozzarella next week. The rejuvelac recipe makes a ton, so there's plenty for multiple batches of cheese.

I've seen a lot of great cookbooks this year, but for a vegan cheese-lover like me, I know this one has staying power.

Animal Activism!

I know I tend to only share food porn on this blog, but I do more than cook. I try to be an activist for the animals any chance I get. I co-founded a little vegetarian society — Food Awareness — in Memphis nearly nine years ago, and over those years, we have done loads of protests, demos, leafleting, and other activism for our four-legged, feathered, and finned friends.

Our biggest event every year is our booth at the Cooper-Young Festival, a super-popular arts fest in Midtown's hip Cooper-Young Historic District that attracts thousands every year. For the past two years, we've inhabited the space in front of Imagine Vegan Cafe, which seems as appropriate as can be. Hundreds of veg-curious people stop by for info on a plant-based diet, and we direct them to the cafe behind us for delicious vegan eats and cheap beer. Here's our booth:

We hand out all sorts of free brochures on veganism and factory farm cruelty:

Like at most festivals, the beer offered at beer stands is overpriced and crappy (think Bud Light ... ick!). But Imagine offers $3 bottles of craft beer from local and regional breweries (like Ghost River and Yazoo) and national breweries (like Young and Flying Dog). They always post this sign outside our tent, and it draws people of all kinds, veg-curious or not, into their vegan cafe. Come for the beer. Stay for the vegan food:

I arrived at the fest to volunteer my time in the booth around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. And thankfully, my pal Stephanie (who bakes all of Imagine's desserts through her home-based vegan company, Swell Baked Goods) had made 16 new desserts for the occasion. I couldn't resist this soft, icing-drenched cinnamon roll:

Most years, I just talk to passersby and hand out flyers, but this year, I had another mission — sell Cookin' Crunk:

In the few hours that I was there, I sold nine copies, one to my friend Jennifer Spurr Harber, a hardcore local advocate for chickens:

Co-founder Vaughan is our main dude at Food Awareness. Without him, we wouldn't have a vegetarian society in Memphis. Vaughan dedicates endless hours to event organizing and spreading the good word. Here he is with healthy school lunch advocate Laura and a friend's kid:

I don't have a clue how many people we reached on Saturday, but I'm sure there were hundreds. I talked to countless people who stopped by the tent to ask us for info on how to give up meat and where to find vegan friends (we proudly provide friendship!). My favorite was a vegan military guy who lives on the local base. He dubbbed himself the "redneck vegan" and he was looking for like-minded friends. He took a giant stack of our flyers to hand out to his military buds. I also met some sweet ladies who were fans of the blog! Touched my heart.

In other news, my cookbook hero Joni Newman has written a glowing review of the Fried Tofu Chicken Wafflewich from Cookin' Crunk. And now she's giving away a signed copy! Check it out!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Crunk Snacks at Pecha Kucha

Every six weeks, my neighborhood arts org, Crosstown Arts, hosts a Pecha Kucha night. Anyone is given the opportunity to speak for six minutes on any topic of their choosing. But each talk must have 20 slides, and you can't talk for more than 20 seconds on each slide. Last month, I gave a Pecha Kucha presentation on Cookin' Crunk, and a guy in the audience asked if I would cook next time.

I said yes. And well, tonight was "next time." The folks at Crosstown Arts asked me to make enough food for 150 people. So I picked a few easy appetizers from my book and got to work. Each night this week, I made a little bit of food so that tonight would come to together quickly.

The event is usually held in the Crosstown Arts office basement, which is just a block from my house. But tonight, they were expecting a larger crowd since the talk was architecture-themed for Memphis Architecture Month. So it was moved into the rustic ground floor of the 1.4 million square foot, vacant Sears Crosstown building (also a block from my house). Here's a blurry picture of me and my food table:

I made Butter Bean Bruschetta — crostini with a butter bean spread, fresh tomatoes, onions, basil, and avocado:

And mini Vegan Pimento Cheese Sandwiches, which I unfortunately failed to photograph without the plastic:

I also made Sweet Tater Sausage Balls:

And my Garlicky Black-Eyed Pea Hummus:

For dessert, I made Mississippi Mud Cookies (a.k.a. Oatmeal Peanut Butter No-Bakes):

Some of my cookies didn't set properly since the recipe is a tad temperamental. So I put the cookies that didn't set in some little dessert cups and topped those with vegan buttercream. Genius, I know.

After the mingling and food/wine time, Crosstown Arts' Chris Miner opened the show:

The event was a huge success with at least seven speakers (I lost count). The talks ranged from tactical urbanism to public art, and my food was mostly all gone by the time the event was over. Oh, and I sold five cookbooks!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Healthier Energy Drink!

I like energy drinks, but I tend to only drink them when I'm on the road and tired of coffee or late at night spiked with vodka. Since I try to avoid nasty crap like high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, there's really never been a good choice of energy drink. The regular kind are loaded with HFCS and calories, and the sugar-free kind are filled with gross fake sugar.

Enter Scheckter's Organic Energy. This stuff is as close to natural as any energy drink will probably ever get:

Here's a look at what's inside:

Let's see: Raw organic cane sugar, organic pom and elderberry juices, and organic lemon juice. That all sounds way better than what you'd find in say, Red Bull or Monster. The "energy" part is a mix of caffeine sourced from guarana, green tea, and raw green coffee beans.

The taste is, well, energy drink-like. If you secretly love Red Bull (as I do), you'll like this stuff. But it does taste like an energy drink. I'm pretty sure the guarana is what gives energy drinks that trademark bite. I enjoyed it, but like almost all beverages, it would be better with a splash of vodka.

But does it work? Scheckter's sent me several cans, and I tried to save them for when I was the most tired. I drank this tall glass of the berry-colored juice after a nap one day, and I didn't notice much difference in the way I felt afterward:

But mind you, I am still very, very sleepy when I first wake. It takes A LOT to get me going, certainly more than the 135 mg of caffeine that's in this stuff. On the average morning, I down the equivalent of two cups of very strong coffee (all poured into one giant travel mug). That's about 400 mg of caffeine. So don't blame the energy drink. I just have a really high tolerance to stimulants.

I decided to give the drink another chance at a time when I'd been awake for hours but was starting to experience the 3 p.m. slump. I drank a can of Scheckter's at work when a particularly grueling project (transcribing interview tapes) was boring me out of my mind. After I downed the can, I did feel a slight boost similar to what I've felt when I've tried those 5-Hour Energy shots. It got me through the rest of the work day.

Conclusion: If you're a caffeine-aholic like me, save these for mid-day rather than morning. But reaching for a Scheckter's is far preferable to some nasty old chemical-laden energy drink.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Because I got no shame about shameless self-promotion, I plan to make a few dishes from Cookin' Crunk every week or so and blog about them. And if you haven't bought my new cookbook yet, maybe you'll see something on here and be all like, "OMG, I have to buy that book right now!" Or if you're poor like me, you'll at least add it to your Amazon wish list and ask your parents/friends/partner to buy it for you. (There's a PayPal button on the right if you want to buy now!)

Tonight, I made a couple of old faves from the early days of the book's development, such as this classic "Some Like It Hot" TLT Sandwich:

Okay, maybe it's not so classic. It's a tofu bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich (with avocado of course!), but what makes it different is the addition of sriracha both in the tofu marinade and on the sandwich itself, along with homemade tofu mayo. Even though there's a tempeh bacon recipe in my cookbook that makes a fine TLT, I like tofu here because it makes for a heartier, thicker sandwich.

On the side, I had my White Trash Pineapple Salad:

Now I know this one looks weird as hell. And it is. But it's good! My daddy grew up eating pineapple salads topped with cheese and a mayo dressing. So I made one with vegan cheese and vegan mayo. It's creamy and refreshing on a hot Indian summer day. I recommend only using my homemade tofu mayo (also in the book) for this because it's significantly lower in fat that, say, Vegenaise. But if you don't care about fat, I bet Vegenaise would be delicious!

Did you know this is the salad featured on the cover next to the Roasted Veggie Po' Boy? Yea, it's kinda hidden by the title banner. But it's there.

For my Memphis readers: You can sample some food from the Crunk kitchen this Thursday night at Crosstown Arts' Pecha Kucha night. I'm bringing samples of my Garlickly Black-eyed Pea Hummus, Mini Pimento Cheese Sandwiches, Sweet Potato Sausage Balls, Butter Bean Bruschetta, and Mississippi Mud Cookies! I'll have books for sale there too. It starts at 6 p.m. at the Sears Crosstown building.