Thursday, October 30, 2014

Justin's Nut Butters!

Sorry again for the lack of posting yesterday. My internet at home has gone out again! Yep, it was fixed for all of 24 hours, and now I have to wait for a technician to come by on Friday morning. Comcast super sucks, and I'm seriously considering a switch to AT&T U-verse. This isn't the first (or even second) time I've had multiple connection issues over a span of days. Anyway, I'm posting a very short review from my office internet. The other posts I had planned for this week will just have to wait until next week.

But I do have something delicious for you today — Justin's nut butter!

Justin's sent me some sample packs (pictured above) and a full-size jar of their Classic Almond Butter.

Now I know these are nothing new to nut butter connoisseurs. But some of the flavors they sent were new to me! I had no idea they made a Vanilla Almond Butter. I'll go for vanilla over chocolate any day, and this nut butter was so perfect. Just the right hint of vanilla. I first tried it with slices of local honeycrisp apple.

But you know what? The sweet apple, delicious as though it was, really masked the flavor of the vanilla nut butter. I ended up eating the nut butter by itself, straight from the squeeze pack, and then eating the apple slices with the Classic Almond Butter instead. Much better fit.

I was hoping to show you all kinds of new ways to use Justin's nut butter, but then I realized that nut butter is best enjoyed on its own, especially when it's flavored with maple, chocolate, vanilla. I've been eating most of my stash (they sent a TON of squeeze packs) straight up. Or smothered on bland sprouted grain toast with a little Bee-Free Honee. This is the best pre-long run fuel for me.

I did use some of the nut butters in smoothies though. I tried this Vega recipe for a Hazelnut Chocolate Smoothie, and it was so creamy and delicious. It contains two tablespoons of the hazelnut butter (which tastes like Nutella!), avocado, and frozen banana. So basically, it's the creamiest smoothie ever.

I also tried this same smoothie using the Justin's Chocolate Almond Butter, another new to me flavor. Equally delicious!

Fingers crossed that my internet is repaired tomorrow and I can get back to my regular posting schedule!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Veggin' Out — Round Four!

Sorry I didn't post last night. I discovered my internet was down at around 10:15 p.m., my usual blogging time. And then I spent the next hour and 45 minutes on the phone with Comcast trying to get it fixed. Ugh. They finally had to send someone out to fix it today. Anyway, I'd planned to post about Veggin' Out: Round Four last night, so here goes.

On Sunday night, we had the last in our series of four filmed vegan dinner parties based on the British reality show, Come Dine With Me. On the original show, four strangers each take turns hosting a three-course dinner party at their house for the four of them. After each dinner, the three guests who didn't host score the party on a scale of one to 10. The host with the highest score wins.

My friends Megan, Stephanie, Pam, and myself are doing a vegan version, and we're filming the whole thing for YouTube webisodes (coming very soon!). I won't reveal too much here, but I do want to show you what our final contestant, Pam, made for her dinner. Also, I should mention that Pam totally played us. She went on and on all month about how she can't cook and how her dinner would be awful. And then she came out with a fantastic spread. Talk about reality show strategy!

For starters, while we chatted in her living room, we had Crudites with Avocado-Sour Cream Dip. 

Pam is from Chile, so her menu was inspired by her home country. The first course was Vegan Ceviche made with artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and avocado.

And that was paired with a Pisco Sour, a traditional Chilean cocktail with a sour liquor and lime. It reminded me of a margarita!

The second course was a Lima Bean and Butternut Squash Soup. Each course had a Spanish name, but I can't remember that.

The soup was served with Homemade Rolls!

 And we also had Corn Pie. There were vegan beef crumbles on the bottom!

For dessert, Pam went all out with a homemade Chesnut Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce and Pumpkin Sopaipillas.

Can't cook, my ass! Pam is a total liar, but her food was delicious. We haven't done the scoring yet, but at this point, I'm fairly certain I'm going to lose. My Southern-inspired dinner just wasn't super fancy because I'm not a fancy cook. Personally, I'll take a plate of soul food over a gourmet meal any day, but I don't think the other girls would agree. We'll see! I'll be sure and post links as soon as they're available!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Birth-o-ween Weekend!!

As you probably know from reading my many birthday-related posts last week, I had a birthday. I tend to celebrate for at least a week and sometimes longer, especially when some of my favorite people can't be with me on my actual birthday. Such was the case this year. My BFF Sheridan couldn't come down for my birthday party last weekend, so she and her husband Drew came to Memphis to visit this past weekend, which just so happened to be pre-Halloween weekend.

They arrived just in time for lunch on Saturday. But before we headed out to eat, I opened presents. They got me the Thug Kitchen cookbook!!! And an awesome seed sprouting tray and some cupcake accessories! Oh yea, I dyed my hair hot pink (more on that in a few).

After presents, we headed to Imagine Vegan Cafe. I ordered the Potato Skins, loaded with vegan cheese, bacon bits, and sour cream.

Next, we went to the Broad Avenue Arts District to support Cassi's Pink Noodle pop-up shop at the Rock-n-Roll Country Carnival.

I bought Cassi's Vegan Nachos! And a Watermelon Candy Apple (but my picture of that didn't turn out).

We stuck around to watch the band, Aimee & Rickie (and their cute animal friends!) sing awesome songs about raising baby squirrels (YES!!!), lentils, and gay marriage.

 And we played for a bit with the fun carnival games! 

And then we hit up Wiseacre Brewing Company for some delicious local brews. I had a pint of the Lord Skylark Earl Grey Pale Ale and a sample of the Holy Candy.

Later, we headed to Crazy Noodle for dinner. I ordered the Vegetable Ramen with tofu, shiitakes, corn, turnip, and other veggies. Omg, so good.

We had plans to go to a Halloween party at my friend Andy's house on Saturday night. I went as Red from Orange is the New Black. That's the reason for the new hair. I tried dying it bright red, but it came out hot pink. And that's totally fine, but I added some red temporary hair spray for my costume.

Sheridan and Drew made the PERFECT Jon Snow and Ygritte from Game of Thrones.

On Sunday morning, before they left town, we met Stephanie for brunch at Fuel Cafe, where I had a Beermosa (mango juice + hard apple cider) and Sheridan stuck with coffee.

We all ordered the Vegan Quinoa Chili Cheese Fries with Avocado to ward off our post-Halloween hangovers. They may have been running low on vegan cheese in the kitchen because they were much skimpier with it than usual. But the fries were still delicious.

While we waited on our meals, we snacked on Vegan Doughnuts that Stephanie picked up at Imagine on her way to Fuel. Mmmmmm ... doughnuts. This was the first doughnut Sheridan has had since going vegan several years ago!

And then Sher and Drew hit the road back home to Little Rock. We had a great weekend, and I'm so happy I got to spend pre-Halloween with my BEST FRIEND!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dena's Fuel for Fitness Raw Crackers!

I have a dehydrator, and I love making homemade raw crackers. But that stuff takes lots of time and planning. And lately, I've not had a spare moment to do much of anything. October is my busiest month of the year with birthdays (most of my friends are Libras like me!), Halloween/Samhain, and tons of other social engagements.

Sometimes, you need someone else to do the hard work of making raw snacks for you. Enter Dena's Fuel for Fitness. 

Dena, a former veterinarian, created her line of raw snacks when she got really into fitness and saw the difference whole foods made in her life. Her small vegan food business got started in the same way so many do —she makes snacks for herself; her friends love them and put in orders; and boom, the next thing you know she's running a raw snack company.

I love an indie success stories like that. And I love it even more when those mom-and-pop businesses make delicious stuff that I don't always have time to make myself. As you can see in the above picture, Dena's company sent me a package of Blueberry-Orange-Coconut Crackers to review. They're made with the fruits listed in the name, plus pumpkin seeds, dates, orange juice, raisins, spices, and sesame seeds. And they contain my favorite flavor — cardamom!

The orange and blueberry work so well together. And these are the perfect texture for raw crackers. They're firm but chewy, soft but sturdy. I've been eating a couple of these each morning before my runs, and they really give me the energy to make it through until I can have my post-run protein smoothie breakfast. Typically, I eat coconut butter-stuffed dates before my runs, but that's getting a little old. These were a nice change.

Dena makes lots of other snacks — several flavors of crackers including Green Crackers (with edamame and chlorella!), Granola Grub (raw-nola with buckwheat groats, seeds, and dried fruits), and Vege Chips (dried veggies — yams, taro, zucchini, squash, and beets).

Her stuff is sold in Whole Foods stores on the West Coast, but for folks like me in the middle of the country, you can also order Dena's stuff online.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Lusty Vegan Cookbook Giveaway!

I live in a blended household. I'm a vegan (duh), and my partner Paul is an omnivore. He doesn't often buy raw meat or cook raw meat. Gross. But he does buy canned soups, TV dinners, and other convenience foods that have meat in them. We don't generally eat together unless we dine out. I eat dinner when I get home from work, and he usually just snacks all night when he gets home. It works out well. More leftovers for me from the meals I cook. Separate grocery bills. Basically, we eat like we're roommates.

But interdietary cohabitation can be tough for some people, especially if you're really particular about having any meat products in the house or if you feel ethically uncomfortable dating/partnering with someone who contributes to factory farm cruelty. I don't like it. But I know I can't change him, and if he decides to give up meat some day, it will be on his own terms.

But there's a new cookbook/relationship manifesto with recipes and tips for people in blended vegan-omni relationships and for the lucky bastards in vegan-on-vegan relationships. It's called The Lusty Vegan, and it's written by Ayinde Howell (of I Eat Grass fame) and Zoe Eisenberg.

This is part cookbook, part relationship guide. But before you go thinkin' it's filled with self-help fluff, think again. Ayinde and Zoe share tips on interdietary relationships, finding a vegan partner, and other love-related stuff through sharing their own personal stories of relationships gone right and wrong. Names are changed to protect their past partners, of course. But it's fun to read those stories, like the one about Ayinde's ex "Ginger," who ordered a burger on their first date. Ayinde is a gold-star vegan (meaning he's never eaten meat), but they managed to date for quite awhile.

The recipes are organized into categories like "Recipes to Impress Your Vegan" (dishes omnis can make for their vegan partners), "Recipes to Impress Your Omni" (the opposite), "A Very Special Dinner Menu" (for that first awkward family holiday celebration, when you realize your partner's mom puts meat in all the vegetables), "The Morning After" (breakfast recipes!), "Recipes for Cohabitation," and so on. There's even a "Food for Sex" section with aphrodiasic foods and a section on break-up foods (basically all desserts, of course).

I chose two recipes to try. I made the Tofu Sausage Pizza Sliders from the chapter of recipes omnis could make to impress vegan dates.

I believe these were included in that chapter because they're so easy. Even an omni can make this without running all over town looking for weird ingredients. They're little English muffin pizzas with Daiya cheese, red pepper, red onion, marinara, and a homemade tofu sausage. I'd never thought to make sausage using tofu, but it is soooooo goooood. Crumbled tofu is seasoned with sausage-y herbs, like sage, rosemary, oregano, basil, and garlic. Yum!

I also made the Truffle-Roasted Vegetable Medley from the special dinner menu chapter.

Very special indeed. It's finally cool enough around here to turn the oven on for extended periods, and all the lovely winter squashes are out, so it seemed like a good time to try this dish. Plus, truffle oil! This is a simple dish made with roasted squash (I used acorn), sweet potato, turnips, carrots, and red onion. The veggies are tossed with truffle oil, which steps them up about 10,000 notches.

Whether you're in a mixed relationship or a vegan dating a vegan, there's something in The Lusty Vegan for you. Who doesn't need a recipe for Habanero Jackfruit Tacos or Mexican Lasagna? Nacho Mac & Cheese? Seitan Parmesan Nuggets with Ranch Dressing? 

Well, if you want those recipes in your life (as well as some handy relationship advice), enter my Lusty Vegan giveaway! The publisher has requested that the giveaway be limited to US residents only. So if you live in the U.S., leave a comment about how you deal with vegan dating/partnering and be sure to include an email address so I can contact you if you win. That last part is very important! Good luck! I'll select a winner on Sunday night.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Vegan Drinks: Beer Night

We've been doing Memphis Vegan Drinks once a month for more than a year now. But you might have noticed (or maybe you didn't) that we'd never held an event at Imagine Vegan Cafe, Memphis' all-vegan comfort food cafe. Imagine, as anyone who reads this blog at least once a week knows, is basically my favorite place in the world. So why wouldn't I schedule a Drinks meetup there?

Because, until about a month ago, they didn't sell alcohol! You see, Imagine had a beer license for their old location a couple years ago, prior to the founding of Memphis Vegan Drinks. But when they moved down the street to where they are now, they lost that license. Those beer licenses don't carry over to new addresses in Memphis, and owner Kristie didn't want to go through the whole licensing process all over again. So they took a booze break. They did start selling cocktail mixes for Sunday brunch with free shots of liquor. But no regular booze sales.

Well, the beer is back at Imagine! So to celebrate, we had Vegan Drinks there tonight. Cheers!

And the rest of the table! Couldn't fit everyone into one shot. We had a nice turnout tonight.

I opted to stick with locally brewed beer, so I started with the Ghost River Riverbank Red. Ghost River is the original Memphis craft brewery. They were making good beer years before the craft beer scene exploded here, but they just recently started bottling Riverbank Red. Previously, it could only be found on tap in bars.

And Wiseacre Brewing Co. is more of a newcomer, but they make some awesome beers. And they definitely have the best can artwork. I love the Wiseacre Tiny Bomb.

I usually take photographs of everyone's food and drinks. But we all ordered beer since that's all Imagine has. Y'all know what bottles look like. And I feel like I've photographed (and posted about) nearly every dish at Imagine at some point or another, so I wasn't being all crazy and sticking my camera phone into people's plates this time.

Yes, I said "camera phone." Deal with it.

Anyway, I will show you what I ordered — Jerk Chicken Sandwich with Brown-Sugared Carrots. This has vegan chicken breast topped with pineapple rings and a spicy, creamy jerk mayo. And the carrots are divine. They remind me of school lunch carrots. Comfort food!

I'll also show you what Richard (Stephanie's husband) ate because it was totally off the menu and unorthodox — Vegan Sausage Patties, Hush Puppies, and French Fries. Yep, fried carbs and fake meat. It looked delicious. By the way, Richard is totally flipping off the camera phone.

Cheers! Beers!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Birthday Pizza Party!

Last birthday post, I swear!* Yesterday, I drove to Jonesboro, where my family lives, to celebrate my 34th birthday (it was last Thursday) with my parents and grandmas. I asked my mom to make pizza! When I arrived at their house, she'd already set up a build-your-own pizza station.

There were Daiya mozzarella shreds, veggie burger crumbles, artichoke hearts, black olives, roasted garlic cloves, red onions, jalapenos, bell peppers, mushrooms, and Italian seasoning. I put all the things on my pizza!

As the pies baked, we had side salads. Mine has tomato, onion, olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and blush wine vinaigrette.

My pizza was fantastic! My parents and Granny had a non-vegan meat and cheese pizza, but they also tried slices of mine. My daddy said the vegan pizza was "pretty good." He and my mama are learning to like vegan cheese! And Granny always likes everything, vegan or not.

After dinner, it was present time! My parents got me a skull shirt, a winter hat, an Origami Owl necklace, and some extra-hot muscadine sauce (for tofu bastin'). And they also got me this!!!!

I am now the proud owner of a freakin' Vitmix. I'm gonna blend EVERYTHING! I used it to make a smoothie this morning, and it pulverized my frozen strawberries in seconds. I can't wait to try the hot soups setting, and I can't wait to make extra-creamy cashew cheese in it.

After presents, it was time for cake! Granny made a vegan Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Buttercream & Coconut. This was so delicious and nutty. Almost like eating straight out of the peanut butter jar. I had a leftover slice with almond-coconut milk today, and it was just perfect.

Later in the day, we drove over to the nursing home where my Me-Maw is temporarily staying. She just had hip surgery, so she has to stay in the home until December.

Overall, I had a lovely birth week!! Great actual birthday on Thursday loaded with delicious food and friends, a fur-tastic cat party on Friday, and quality family time on Sunday!

* I lied about this being the last birthday post! Next weekend, my bestie Sheridan is coming to town from Little Rock for a belated birthday celebration. So I'll have to bring up my birthday one more time! #sorrynotsorry

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Fur-tastic Birthday Meowabration!!

This past Friday night, my friends Vaughan and Nicole hosted my birthday party at their new house. I'm a sucker for a theme, and I'm all about cats right now (and always have been and always will be). So my theme was CATS! Everyone had to come dressed as a cat, and if they didn't have a cat costume, one was provided. Vaughan and Nicole have an amazing costume collection!

Here are a few of the cat girls!

And here's my whole look. My ears are made out of hair!!! And my leggings don't match at all, but look! Cats!!!

As usual, my professional vegan baker friend Stephanie (a.k.a. Poopie Bitch) made my cake. I'm so lucky to have a vegan baker friend! This was traditional birthday cake flavor, vanilla on vanilla — my fave.

I tried to make a few cat-themed party snacks. I mixed some green onion dip mix with Tofutti sour cream and called it Catnip Dip.

And I attempted to make cat-shaped soft pretzels, but um, they didn't turn out so cat-like. Tasty though. I used the boxed Auntie Anne's pretzel mix. It's vegan.

I also used some pretzel dough to wrap vegan hot dogs for Cat Tails. But I accidentally deleted the picture in my phone! Here are the cat tails are on the table with the rest of the snacks Vaughan provided — Guacamole (his guac is so good!), Roasted Pine Nut Hummus, Mixed Nuts, Grapes, and Veggie Straws.

I even drank cat-themed beer. I found this Indian Tiger beer at the Cash Saver. Just a traditional light lager. Not the best beer, but hey, it had a Tiger on it. I had the beer manager Taylor helping me look for beers with cats on the label, and there aren't many. There seems to be beers with every other animal but not cats. Someone needs to fix that.

My friends even got me cat-themed gifts! I got a kitty Chia Pet, a space cat dress, a cat tarot deck, cat magnets, and lots of other cool stuff non-cat stuff. I even got a crazy cat lady purse! (Notice my friend Andy in the background not in costume. He's just a cool cat. No costume needed.)