Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Vegan Mash-Up Project

I love, love, love cooking shows. But as you know, options for vegan cooking programs are slim. I can watch the meat stuff on the Food Network and pretend I'm looking at seitan or Gardein, but that pretty much sucks. So I was thrilled when I heard some of my favorite chefs — Terry Hope Romero, Miyoko Schinner, and Toni Fiore — were coming to public television with the Vegan Mashup cooking show.

Unfortunately, I'm not one of the lucky people who lives in an area that broadcasts Vegan Mashup on public television. So I waited for the show to come out on DVD, and then I scored a great deal on the disc through Vegan Cuts.

I've watched two episodes of the six on the DVD so far, and I'm in love. Each episode features several dishes, one prepared by each chef and then a dish made by a guest chef (My fellow Memphian/soul food magician Bryant Terry guest cheffed on the first episode!).

Anyway, I'd a total nerd, and I've decided to type out each recipe as it's shown on the screen during the show. And I've made a promise to myself that I will cook every recipe from the first season throughout the year, so you'll see a series of Vegan Mashup posts here.

To start, I picked two recipes from the Party Foods episode. Now, I considered waiting until I had another party at the house, but who knows when that will be? Why not make party food for everyday eats? I made a meal of these appetizers and washed them down with a little red wine, so I could pretend I was having a party with myself.

I made the Gruyere and Pear Croustades by Miyoko Schinner:

Those are crostini topped with homemade aged cashew gruyere, pear slices, and a sweet red wine sauce. Wow! These flavors just belong together — the tanginess of the aged cheese, the sweetness of the pear, and the dry flavor of red wine. This recipe will be a keeper for entertaining. By the way, it's also in Miyoko's awesome Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook, so if you have that book, you can make these too! The making rejuvelac and aging cheese takes about a week, so plan ahead.

I also made Toni Fiore's Tempeh Bites with Tzatsiki Sauce:

Tempeh is baked in a savory soy sauce marinade, and then it's served at room temperature with a homemade tzatsiki sauce for dipping. The sauce is made with a base of silken tofu, oil, and shredded cucumbers. In the past, I've always used vegan yogurt to make tzatsiki, but I like this tofu version better. It's thicker and creamier.

There are lots more recipes featured in the first season, so expect periodic Vegan Mashup posts. And don't forget to check the Vegan Mashup website to see if you live in a market that broadcasts the show.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chloe's Vegan Desserts

I just love Chloe Coscarelli! In case you're not familiar with Ms. Chloe, she was the first baker to win the Food Network's Cupcake Wars with a vegan cupcake. Talk about takin' it to the mainstream, right?

Last year, I reviewed her first cookbook, Chloe's Kitchen, which was filled with, not only yummy vegan baked goods, but delicious savory dishes, many of which paid homage to Chloe's Italian roots. Well, now Chloe has released an all-dessert cookbook, aptly named Chloe's Vegan Desserts.

It's a gorgeous, full-color tome filled with cupcakes (including her Cupcake War-winning Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Candied Orange Peel), layer cakes, cookies, pies, bars, cinnamon rolls, pudding, and ice cream. How Chloe can bake so much and still look so thin and smokin' hot is beyond me, but seeing her hotness on the cover makes me feel like I can eat any dessert and not gain a pound. Sure, it's a fallacy. But it's one I'm willing to give in to.

On that note, I tried several recipes from this book without a shred of food guilt. First, I made this Olive Oil Lemon Cake:

I mostly picked this recipe so I'd have an excuse to use my new bundt pan. But dude, I'm so glad I did. The was the most ridiculously moist, light lemon cake in the world. I brought it to a potluck, and it was devoured so fast that the host didn't even get a taste. Perhaps wrongly, I took two slices for myself before the host even fixed his plate. But hey, I baked the cake, and it was damn good (and he was taking his sweet time making his plate).

Next, I tried the PUPcakes! These are mini cupcakes for dogs!

As you can see, Datsun was licking his lips just thinking about these. The basic, wheat flour-based, applesauce-sweetened cupcakes were topped with melted carob, so they were totally safe for dogs. My pups loved these. Datsun would swallow them whole, and Maynard (my pit bull) would spit his on the floor and carefully eat the cake first. Then he'd lick the carob off the floor. He's a messy pup, but I can't blame him for wanting to savor each part.

I actually tried these too, and they were awesome. I was tempted to steal the whole batch for myself, but, perhaps feeling guilty for hogging the lemon cake, I decided to only have one of these and give the rest to my little guys.

This week, I made a batch of Chloe's Sugar Cookies in fun spring shapes:

Those are bunnies, a flower, and an umbrella if you can't tell. My co-workers, who ate most of these on Tuesday, couldn't decide if the umbrella was really a basket or a mushroom. Anyway, perfect sugar cookies. I like mine soft and not at all crunchy. These were melt-in-your-mouth soft and buttery without a hint of overcooked crunchiness.

I have a ton more recipes bookmarked to try from this book later. The Double Crust Fudge Bars (shortbread crust with coconut-chocolate topping) are at the top of that list, followed by Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Glaze, Baked Chocolate Doughnuts, Mocha Mud Pie, and Chocolate Beer Cupcakes with Irish Whiskey Buttercream.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Imagine Vegan Cafe Is Moving!

This is a vegan public service announcement: Imagine Vegan Cafe is moving to a new location! The city's only full-service, vegan comfort food cafe is relocating to 2299 Young Avenue, just a few blocks down from their current home near the corner of Cooper and Young.

I know most of my readers aren't in Memphis, but I wanted to post this for those who are and for any readers who may be planning a trip to Memphis in the near future. In case you're not familiar, Imagine is the place to go for down-home comfort food —fried vegan chicken, BBQ sandwiches, vegan cheese pizza, vegan chicken fried steak, as well as scrumptious vegan desserts by Swell Baked Goods (chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes, pumpkin cream cheese blondies, cinnamon rolls, and cookie sandwiches to name a few regular treats). It's pretty much my second home since I've eaten there nearly every week for two years (sometimes twice a week).

Anyway, for almost 2 years, Imagine has been at 2156 Young. But the landlord is raising the rent, so they've found a new place at 2299 Young, just down the street.

The last day in the current location is Friday, March 29th, so be sure and stop by if you're local. Getcha one last platter of "turkey" cutlets and gravy with vegan mac & cheese before the big move. They don't expect to re-open in the new space until mid-April. I'll keep y'all posted here.

Since they're moving, they have to print new menus with the new address. So they'll be making a few changes to the menu. I have it on good authority that they'll be adding the Big S'mac (a vegan Big Mac-style sandwich with two non beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on an dairy-free bun) to the new menu. They've been offering it as a special lately, and I finally tried it tonight.

So messy and delightfully sinful. I can't say that I ever had a Big Mac in my meat-eating days. But I can say that this sandwich was delicious. There's a vegan Thousand Island-style sauce, Imagine's killer vegan cheese, and the best-ever Gardein Beefless Burgers (Have y'all tried these? Best veggie burger on the market).

They'll also be removing a few items that haven't sold as well. So I'm sad to say that we'll be saying goodbye to the Vegan Sloppy Joe.

My partner Paul is about the only one who orders this sandwich with any regularity. He's an omni, but he loves this Sloppy Joe. It's tasty. But I'll admit that I typically opt for something a little cheesier.

Anyway, save the date for mid-April. And look for the new Imagine Vegan Cafe at 2299 Young Avenue.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mad About Muesli

Did you know that muesli was invented in 1900? A Swiss physician named Maximilian Bircher-Benner invented it for the patients in his hospital, where a diet rich in fruits and veggies was a part of their therapy. Smart guy, that Max Bircher-Benner. He actually a pioneer of the high-raw food diet way, way before it was cool.

Anyway, for my next cookbook project, which features veganized versions of trendy foods from the 20th century, I absolutely had to include a muesli recipe! Here's my Hot Muesli with Dates and Almonds:

And here's the recipe. It makes 14 servings of dry mix, so you can store this in your pantry for those weekdays when you don't feel like cookin' a big ole breakfast. Eat plain or sweeten with maple syrup. Top with nut butter (or Biscoff cookie butter if you're feeling naughty).

Hot Muesli with Dates and Almonds
Makes 14 1/2-cup servings

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups barley flakes
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped Medjool dates
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Mix everything together in a large bowl. Transfer to a storage container.

To cook:
Mix 1/2 cup muesli mix with 1 cup plant milk or water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat. Cover and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Party Like Its 1900

As I've mentioned here before, my next cookbook project will feature veganized versions of trendy foods over the decades of the 20th century. It will begin with the 1900s and then move to the 1920s, 1930s, and so on.

I'm no food historian, so this involves a little research. And some foods that have been around for far longer than 1900 were still popular throughout many decades of the past century. Take for example tonight's meal. Using the Food Timeline (an awesome website for this sort of research), I learned that broiled meats, fried potatoes, and creamed asparagus were all common dinner menu items in the 1900s. Now, I'm sure broiled meats were popular long before the 1900s, but that's okay. I'm using the veganized versions of these dishes for the 1900 section.

Instead of meat, I created an easy recipe for Broiled Tofu.

Extra-firm tofu is brushed with a soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger marinade and broiled for about 15 minutes. I'm sure they didn't use Asian-inspired marinades for their meats in the 1900s, but I'm already veganizing so I feel fine taking some creative culinary liberties.

For the Fried Potatoes, I looked no further than my own upbringing in Arkansas. My mama and my granny made fried potatoes for dinner all the time. I fried these up with a little onion and seasoning salt, and I used coconut oil for a healthier dish. And I enjoyed these Southern-style with some sweet tomato relish and ketchup.

Now, I've never had Creamed Asparagus, but I read all about it. It's basically a gravy with steamed or boiled asparagus mixed in (I steamed mine to retain nutrients). It's typically served over toast points.

What a fun new (to me) way to serve asparagus! I typically only roast it or steam it, but everything is better with gravy. Even asparagus!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tastes Like Miracle Whip!

Remember Miracle Whip? I mean, yea, it's still around. But if you're vegan, it's probably been years since you've had that slightly sweet whipped sandwich spread. In concept, it was kind of weird. Sweet, fluffy mayo? But somehow, when you spread it on some bread and sandwiched it up with deli meat, it worked some sort of, um, flavor miracle for lack of a better word.

Well, the days of missing Miracle Whip are over, vegan friends. Nasoya has just come out with a new NayoWhipped Sandwich Spread, and it tastes JUST LIKE Miracle Whip but minus the eggs. The Nasoya folks sent me a jar to review, plus they also sent along their creamier new version of the classic Nayonaise:

If you haven't had Nayonaise in awhile, it's time to give it another try. I'll admit that I didn't like it all that much when I first went vegan. But I like this new creamier version! It tastes more like mayo than it used to. It still has a distinctly different flavor than, say, Vegenaise or Earth Balance Mindful Mayo. It's a tad sweeter than those products but in a good way. I cracked open this jar and ate some straight-up with a spoon.

Now, about that NayoWhipped: I was just blown away by how much this stuff tastes like Miracle Whip. I decided to substitute NayoWhipped for the vegan mayo called for in the Eggless Tofu Olive Salad from Cookin' Crunk:

That's crumbled tofu mixed with sliced olives, onions, celery, black salt, NayoWhipped and some other spices. The result? Delicious! Of course, it's sweeter than it usually is when I use mayo. But it tastes like an egg salad made with Miracle Whip, which is always a fun change from the norm.

As a bonus, both spreads contain vitamin B12 and omega-3s!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Chaat Corner

I've always had a special place in my heart for Indian food. It was my first taste of authentic Indian cuisine that helped me go vegetarian in the ninth grade. But it wasn't until a few years ago that I discovered Indian street food or chaat.

I've always been a snacky girl, so it makes sense that I'd be happier stuffing my face with small plates of dosa, vada, and samosa rather than heavy meals of curry and rice. A couple of South Indian restaurants in Memphis have special chaat menus, but recently, my friend Leslie (who wishes she was Indian) introduced me to a place that only sells snacks. Inside the India Bazaar grocery store is Chaat Corner. It's like a concession stand for Indian snack food!

We took a late afternoon lunch a few weeks back, and here's what ordered to share. We just had to get the obligatory Samosas — mashed potato- and pea-stuffed fried dumplings with chutney and tamarind sauce:

And even though I was certain we were ordering too much food and would leave stuffed (we did), Leslie insisted that we split this crispy Masala Dosa — a large crepe-like pancake stuffed with spiced potatoes and served with sambar soup and coconut chutney:

I've had plenty of samosas and dosas in my day, and these were both top-notch. In fact, the samosas were probably some of my favorite ever.

Leslie also introduced me to something new — Pani Puri (crispy round pillows stuffed with chickpeas, onions, and some other stuff that I did not recognize but tasted delicious). The pani puri is served with a tangy tamarind sauce that you pour in the little hole before you eat each bite. So much fun to eat!

Chaat Corner had quite a few more dishes that I'll be trying next time — Vada (spicy lentil dumplings), Bhelpuri (one of my fave snacks made with crispy sev noodles, veggies, puffed rice, and tamarind sauce), and Samosa Chaat (samosa broken into pieces and mixed with chutney).

Chaat Corner is located inside India Bazaar at 3810 Hacks Cross. Call 901-368-0068.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gettin' Faux-Eggy With It!

It doesn't feel much like spring in Memphis. It's 45 degrees tonight, and it never got above 55 during the day. I'm so sick of this cold weather. I'm ready for 100-degree, humid Memphis summers.

But until then, I guess I'll just have to live in the now. Traditionally, eggs are eaten on the first day of spring, the Vernal Equinox. It's also called Ostara, and it's an ancient holiday that celebrates the return of the sun and the fertility of the earth. It's the holiday from which modern-day Easter symbolism was born — eggs and rabbits symbolize fertility, rebirth of the Sun is similar to the rebirth of the Son (Jesus). This is the holiday I celebrate instead of the Christian Easter, but it's quite similar actually.

Since I don't eat eggs, I always eat "eggy" vegan things on Ostara. For breakfast, I had Cream Toast:

This is a recipe that I've developed for my next cookbook project, which will feature trendy foods from the various decades of the 20th century. Cream Toast dates back to at least the 1900s, probably earlier. Basically, it's toast with a buttery cream gravy and sometimes served with eggs. For mine, I made a tofu scramble and topped it with a cream gravy.

Lunch wasn't all that eggy, just leftover Irish Stew and Soda Bread from St. Patrick's Day. But for dinner, I had the Eggless Egg Salad Sandwich at Imagine Vegan Cafe:

I love Imagine's eggless salad. It's made with chickpeas, Vegenaise, pickles, and plenty black salt for eggy flavor. It was even served on a lovely spring plate with flowers and birds on it.

For dessert (because holidays always demand dessert)!, I had a slice of Fluffer Nutter Cake from Imagine — peanut butter cake with vegan marshmallow cream. Unfortunately, the whole slice made it into my belly before I remembered to photograph it. Sorry!

Happy Spring! May there be plenty of warm days ahead!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Big Cheesy Post

I've tried some new fun vegan cheeses lately, and I've been saving them all for one big cheesy post.

A few weeks ago, my daddy ordered me some Punk Rawk Labs Nut Milk Cheese from Vegan Essentials. I'd been reading the praises about Punk Rawk Labs cheese in VegNews Magazine for months and was dying to try it. He ordered the Smoked Cashew Mac and the Herb Cashew Mac:

 They're like little tiny presents inside!

Both cheeses are totally raw and made from a blend of cashews and macadamia nuts. They have that aged cheese flavor that you get from using rejuvelac. These are the sort of fancy cheeses you'd serve with some good vegan wine at a dinner party.

I loved the Herb flavor most! It had a tangy, Italian taste:

But the Smoked was coated in course black pepper. I love anything coated in pepper:

I think these cheeses are best enjoyed spread on a fancy cracker. I ate most of mine on Engine 2 Crispbreads, but I did try a schmear or two on some sandwiches:

In that same order from Vegan Essentials, my daddy also ordered me a jar of Victoria Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Sauce:

I'd also been reading about these sauces in VegNews. Victoria Vegan is a new line of vegan cream-based pasta sauces. There are four flavors, but the roasted red pepper sounded the best to me. I tried it on some whole wheat linguini:

Wow!! I've made plenty of vegan alfredo recipes, and all have been pretty darn tasty. But this stuff? World's better than anything I've ever made from scratch. It tastes like real dairy alfredo with a roasted red pepper kick. It's made with cashew cream, peppers, tomato paste, garlic, pepper, and herbs.

I also recently ordered some Heidi Ho Veganics Chia Cheeze Sauce from Vegan Cuts:

I got three jars (one was already half gone when I snapped this picture) for $18. I'd tried some Heidi Ho block cheeses in Portland during Vida Vegan Con in 2011, and I loved them. So I was excited to try their latest cheese product.

I've never met a jarred vegan sauce that I didn't love (Food for Lovers queso, Nacho Mom's, and Nacheez, I'm talkin' to you!). But this one has a very different ingredient list from the others. The main ingredients are potatoes, carrots, onions, chia seeds, and cashews. Who knew potatoes and carrots could taste like cheese?

But guess what? They do! This stuff is delicious. The chia seeds make the sauce very thick, and the flavor is reminiscent of some cheese sauce I remember from childhood. But I can't put my finger what sauce that is.

The Chia Cheeze is the perfect topping for loaded baked potatoes with Tofutti sour cream, Earth Balance, chives, and bacon bits:

Next up: I plan to try it with nachos! And then maybe cheese fries!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Chiwawa

I have a vegan hot dog named after me! I've always dreamed about seeing my name on a menu item, and now my dreams have come true. And a hot dog, no less. As the daughter of a hot dog addict, I know my mama couldn't be more proud.

Let me explain. A few weeks ago, Memphis restauranteur Taylor Berger messaged me for vegan hot dog suggestions to serve at Chiwawa, his new Midtown eatery with a focus on hot dogs, authentic Mexican fare (no cheddar and no sour cream), and fascinating ways to serve tequila and whiskey (more on that in a few). I gave him some ideas, and he asked "Can we call it the Bianca Dawg?" I thought he was kidding.

And then Chiwawa had its grand opening last Friday. My editor went there for lunch, and he sent me this picture. Check out the Bianca Dawg at the bottom!

I could barely contain my excitement, but I managed to wait until Saturday after the St. Paddy's parade to stop in and order my own Bianca Dawg. It was so fun telling the waitress, "So I'm gonna have the Bianca Dawg 'cause that's me!"

It's a grilled Tofurky brat served on a flour tortilla with sweet 'n' tangy mustard-based Slaw Chiwawa. You know, I'd never have thought to roll a brat up into a tortilla, but it's genius. Less calories than a big ole bun. Plus, eating a hot dog in a tortilla makes you feel like a big kid!

Items at Chiwawa are served a la carte, so our table ordered a plate of Papas Fritas to share. Warning to vegans: Be sure and request the papas with no cheese. They arrived with some sort of crumbly white cheese on top, but our waitress was super nice and immediately whisked them away and replaced them with fresh, hot cheese-free fries. They were served with a yummy Memphis-style BBQ sauce for dippin':

The Bianca Dawg isn't the only veg item on the menu. My friend Greg, who couldn't bring himself to order something with my name on it (I have the nicest friends ... rolling eyes), ordered this mushroom taco with avocado and veggies. I wish I knew what it was called on the menu, but I can't remember. He said it was delicious!

Besides combining hot dogs and Mexican food (my mama's two favorite cuisines in the world, btw), Chiwawa has the added bonus of being a fine purveyor of fancy cocktails made with tequila and whiskey.

For now, you can get perfectly mixed margaritas and other cocktails. But come summer, Chiwawa will be serving up tequila snowcones and whiskey popsicles on its spacious patio. I am counting down the days.

Chiwawa is located at 2059 Madison Ave. Call 901-207-1456.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Eats

I'm a sucker for a holiday. I get it from my Me-maw, who lovingly decorates every inch of her home for just about every holiday on the calendar. I haven't taken things that far yet, but as I get older, I suspect I'll also be adding holiday-themed area rugs and knick-knacks to my home decor.

Until then, I'll celebrate holidays the best way I know how. With food!! Since St. Patrick's Day fell on a Sunday this year, we celebrated all weekend in Memphis. Our annual St. Pat's Day parade along Beale Street was on Saturday afternoon. I threw on a green shirt and spiked my morning coffee with a little Jameson before heading downtown. Look at these cute vintage Irish Coffee mugs that I found in a flea market for $5 a piece:

I looked around on Etsy and found a very similar set of four mugs for $32. I got a sweet deal on mine! But they're not very authentic. Look where they're made!

My friends and I did a Rainbow Pub Crawl to all the gay bars after the parade. We did stop for a food at a new restaurant, but I'm saving that for tomorrow's review post (Hint: It definitely wasn't Irish. Think more like Mexican hot dogs).

On Sunday, my food was a little more St. Pat's-appropriate. For lunch, I made the Irish Stew with Potatoes and Seitan from Appetite for Reduction:

I bookmarked this recipe when I first got Isa's low-cal cookbook years ago, but I've finally gotten around to trying it. And wow. Just wow! It's such a hearty meat-and-potatoes stew, and in true St. Patrick's Day fashion, the broth is seasoned with beer. I used a good dark stout.

I also made a loaf of Irish Soda Bread from Celebrate Vegan:

Another wow! I've never had soda bread, but it's so flavorful. It only has a few ingredients — baking soda, wheat flour, plant milk, sugar, and agave. But the wheat flour makes the bread taste so earthy and wholesome. This was the perfect side to the Irish stew.

For dinner, Imagine Vegan Cafe hosted a St. Patrick's Day Breakfast Buffet called "Green 'Eggs' and Slam," named for the Dr. Seuss book and Imagine's locally famous Memphis Slam breakfast plate of biscuits, tofu scramble, gravy, and vegan cheese.

I went a little crazy at the buffet. I have ZERO self-control in all-you-can-eat situations. First, I had this plate with dyed green Tofu Scramble, Biscuits and Vegan Sausage Gravy, Vegan Sausage, Home Fries, a Crescent Roll Stuffed with Sausage, and a Mini Pancake with Maple Syrup:

Then I had these two mini cupcakes — Caramel Dipped Vanilla Buttercream and Lavender Vanilla:

And then they put out grits and hash brown patties. So I got another plate (not pictured). They also put out some fruit, but who wants fruit when there are hash browns to be had? And then they sliced into the Chocolate Stout Sheet Cake. And I had to get a slice of that too:

Oh, and they had green beer. So I had a few cups of that:

That was about two hours ago and I still can't move. I had to change out of my jeans and into some fat pants for the night. Ugh. I don't regret it though. St. Patrick's Day only comes but once a year.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Burgers for Breakfast

I love burgers. Back when I was just a baby vegetarian trying to survive in my small Arkansas hometown, I lived on veggie burgers. This was the 90s, and while vegetarianism was popular then in major cities, it was still a foreign concept in Jonesboro, Arkansas. We didn't even know what "vegan" meant.

But the Kroger in my hometown eventually started carrying Morningstar Farms products, so at least I had veggie burgers (they weren't vegan burgers, but that was okay then). When I got to college (also in my hometown), our cafeteria served veggie burgers. That was one of the few veg options, besides cheese pizza and the salad bar. You'd think that after years and years of burger patties, I'd be sick of them.

But no. I'm sick of Morningstar and Boca, oh yes. But fun, different burgers? No way! One of the best things about being vegan is burger diversity. Omnis, they have, um, what like 2 burger options (beef or turkey). But vegans, we're a creative bunch. We make our own burgers out of all kinds of stuff.

Take for example these Denver Omelet Burgers from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet by Joni Marie Newman:

That, my friends, is a breakfast burger. It's a tofu omelet patty with sauteed peppers and onions, seitan "ham," and homemade TVP bacon bits stirred in. And it's served on an Ezekial sprouted grain English muffin with salsa. Here's an inside shot:

Yep, it's pretty much genius. But everything from the fabulous Ms Newman is astounding, so no surprise there. If I'd have known I'd be eating these kinds of burgers 18 years after giving up meat, I'd have been that much more confident that I'd made best decision of my life back in 1994 when I swore off meat forever.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two Energy Bar Recipes!

As promised a few weeks ago, I plan to share my homemade energy bar recipes as I create them. Every couple of weeks, I concoct a new batch of energy bars to eat before my morning runs and weight training sessions. I use a graph from the Thrive Forward website to pair fruits, nuts, seeds, carbs, and protein in balanced combinations.

After my Thrive cleanse in January, I decided to abandon my usual storebought energy bars for homemade, healthier bars. So many bars that you buy are loaded with sugar and additives, plus most tend to be higher in protein. From what I've learned, protein is better for post-workout while easy-to-digest simple carbs, like fruit, are better for pre-workout snacking. These homemade bars have some protein, but there's more focus on simple carbs (like dates!).

I have two recipes to share tonight. Both bars look pretty similar, but I assure you that they taste very different. Also, they both look a little like poop. But I swear they're delicious. Dates are the main ingredient, and let's face it, dates are not very sexy.

The first bar is a Matcha Green Tea Almond Bar. It's my favorite of the two. It has the same chewy texture as a Larabar, and it has that tannic green tea taste. The other bar is a Pear Flax Cinnamon Bar. It's softer than the green tea bar, but it has a sweeter cinnamon pear flavor.

Matcha Green Tea Almond Bar
Yields 12 bars
117 calories each

1 1/2 cups chopped dates
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/3 cup whole raw almonds
1/4 cup matcha green tea powder

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process until the mixture gets sticky and starts to ball up. Turn the mixture out onto a cutting board and shape into a square. Cut the bars into 12 equal-sized pieces. Individually wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Store in the fridge.


Pear Flax Cinnamon Bar
Makes 8 bars
132 calories each

1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup diced pear
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup powdered hemp protein
1/4 cup whole flax seed
2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process until the mixture gets sticky and starts to ball up. Turn the mixture out onto a cutting board and shape into a square. Cut the bars into 8 equal-sized pieces. Individually wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Store in the fridge.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Rock 'n' Dough Pizza Co.

Years ago, when I first went vegan and the only cheese on the market was Vegan Rella, I would have never imagined that in 2013, I could go to four — count 'em — four restaurants in Memphis and order a vegan cheese pizza.

But fast forward to now, and that's exactly what I can do. Any night of the week! Memphis may not be Portland, but it's not too shabby in the vegan eats department. We've had four places that offer vegan cheese pizzas for some time, but just as one of those closed recently (R.I.P. Hi-Tone Cafe), another vegan-friendly door opened — Rock 'n' Dough Pizza Co.

This teensy little pizza joint in East Memphis only has about six tables, and as you can probably tell by the name, pizza is pretty much all they do. When I heard they had vegan pizza, I immediately made plans. And this past weekend, I finally tried the Vegan Pie:

Isn't it gorgeous? This is a small, mind you. There are eight huge slices, which made four meals for me.

Atop the perfect crispy, chewy, buttery crust is a vegan white sauce, Daiya cheese, zucchini, roasted bell peppers, spinach, and kalamata olives. Probably all of my favorite toppings on one lovely pie. I really enjoy a good vegan white sauce over marinara most of the time.

My only complaint is there just wasn't enough Daiya for me. I like a cheesy pizza, so next time, I plan to request extra vegan cheese ... even if that costs a little more. I know some vegans who would rather let the flavor of veggies shine through, and they'd probably prefer less Daiya. But y'all know me. I would live on carbs and vegan cheese alone if that was healthy. 

Also, you can build your own pie using vegan cheese and a huge list of veggie options. 

Since the place is tiny, I'd recommend checking them out during non-peak meal times or picking up a pie to go.

(In case you're wondering about those other three places to get a vegan cheese pizza in Memphis, that would be Imagine Vegan Cafe, Trolley Stop Market, and Mellow Mushroom).

Rock 'n' Dough Pizza Co. is located at 1243 Ridgeway Rd. Call (901) 435-6238.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Indian Brinner

I can't remember when I first tried vada, spicy Indian lentil doughnuts. I think it may have been at an Indian restaurant in Nashville several years ago. But I do remember being in love with these savory fritters from the very first bite.

For one, they're shaped like doughnuts. And doughnuts are magical. But they have that lentil/gram flour flavor so common in South Indian food. And that flavor is also magical. I've made them from scratch before, but as much as I love fried food, I don't always feel like dragging out the deep fryer. So when I spotted these frozen vada in the Mediterranean Grocery on Park, I just had to have them!

Vada are typically served with some kind of dipping sauce, like a chutney or sambar (a soup made from dal and veggies). The Mediterranean Grocery did have frozen sambar from the same brand. But it looked like a small one-serving package. I wanted more than that. I knew just what cookbook to turn to for a homemade Spicy Sambar recipe — The Lotus & the Artichoke by Justin P. Moore!

Justin's Spicy Sambar has been on my to-make list since he gifted me the book. It's loaded with toor dal (yellow pigeon peas), potatoes, carrots, chiles, peas, tamarind, tomatoes, onion, and lots of Indian spices (garam masala, coriander, cumin, and asafoetida).

Delicious! This homemade version has way more veggies than any sambar I've ever had at an Indian restaurant. But I like it that way. It's almost like a vegetable soup with Indian spices. And that toor dal (kind of like red lentils) really lends the sambar that classic flavor that I associate with the soup.

I didn't realize this until I started researching sambar with vada for this post, but the combo is a popular South Indian breakfast staple! I prefer my breakfasts savory and all, but I'd never think to eat something like this in the morning. It seems a better fit for dinner, so let's just say I had Indian brinner.