Thursday, April 30, 2015

Stuff I Ate

Here's a random meal round-up from the past couple weeks.

I've really been into bagels lately. That's because I've discovered Kite Hill Almond Cream Cheese. Our Memphis Whole Foods doesn't sell it, but I grabbed some in Little Rock last weekend. So good. BEST CREAM CHEESE EVER! This is the one with chives and onion on everything bagels.

I had a cooking demo a couple weekends ago at the Memphis Library Bookstock, and I made my Vegan Pimento Cheese. I had a little leftover after sampling, so I also spread that on bagels. These were whole wheat bagels.

I've gotten in the habit of having a bowl of fruit with breakfast. And my fave right now is Strawberries with Bee-Free Honee and Cinnamon!

For lunch one day, I hit up the Revival beer garden at the Tennessee Brewery, which is conveniently across the street from my office. They have a rotating cast of food trucks there, and one day at lunch, Fuel was there serving up their delicious Vegan Tacos (with Fuel's homemade veggie burger crumbles, vegan cheese, vegan sour cream, and avocado).

I dressed up the pasta leftover from Paul's birthday dinner at Folk's Folly a couple weeks back by adding Tofurky Spinach-Pesto Sausage and vegan parm by Go Veggie.

For dinner one night, I made Spicy Miso "Chicken" with Broccoli and Brown Rice using this recipe from the Beyond Meat website. Beyond Meat is definitely my fave vegan chicken sub.

There's an adorable little pizzaria by my house called Midtown Crossing (and it's also the home of Cassi's vegan cupcakery, Pink Diva). Midtown Crossing is in the process of adding some vegan menu items, but until they do, they're very willing to go off-menu and make something special for vegans. Last week, they made me this Hummus & Veggie Stromboli with Olive Oil and Herbs! OMG!!! The soft, chewy crust was stuffed with lots of hummus, black olives, caramelized onion, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

Today was Dining Out for Life, a fund-raiser for Friends for Life (the HIV/AIDS nonprofit that I serve on the board of directors for). On Dining Out day, restaurants all over Memphis agree to donate a portion of their sales from that day to Friends for Life. Imagine Vegan Cafe donated 50% of their proceeds, so I ate there for lunch and dinner today!

At lunch, I went with my co-worker Susan. I ordered this Buffalo Chicken Sandwich (with ranch dipping sauce!) and Garlic Kale.

I'd fully intended to order something healthy for dinner there. But Stephanie (Imagine's baker and my friend) delivered desserts tonight, and she brought my very favorite cake flavor — Orange Creamsicle!! So I had to. Just had to.

But a girl cannot fill up on cake alone. I ordered a cup of Imagine's Vegetable Soup for balance.

Well that's it for now! I may or may not blog on Sunday night since I'll be getting in late from a music festival. But if I don't see ya then, I'll see ya soon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Berry Breeze Review

Tonight, I have something a little different. It's a kitchen gadget review! When the folks at Berry Breeze offered to let me try their device designed to extend the life of fresh produce, I'll admit that I was skeptical.

This little device runs on D batteries, and it sits in your fridge. It's supposed to use clean, activated oxygen to kill bacteria, germs, and mold while also eliminating fridge odors. Sounds too good to be true. But it couldn't hurt to try.

First, I started with a test batch of strawberries. I put a container of berries (just the plastic one they come in at the grocery store) on the second shelf in the fridge. I DID NOT put the Berry Breeze in the fridge. I wanted to see what those berries would look like after a week in the fridge with no Berry Breeze. Here they are, one week after purchase.

You can see that some of the berries are a little soft. They were still okay to eat. But a couple more days and they would have turned to moldy mush. I'll eat berries that look like the ones above, but Paul won't touch them at that stage.

Next, I loaded up the Berry Breeze with batteries, and the green activation light came on. That light means it's generating oxygen. I placed it in my fridge next to a new package of strawberries. And I left that there for a week. Here are those berries, after one week with the Berry Breeze.

This really took me by surprise! The berries look almost as fresh as the day I bought them! This device actually works. Not pictured, I also had great luck with a package of raspberries. I feel like raspberries get moldy very quickly. But with the Berry Breeze, my raspberries lasted about a week with no mold and very little softening.

According to their website, here's how it works: "Activated oxygen neutralizes bacteria, mold, and other microbes by inhibiting ethylene gas that triggers decay. This keeps food in a 'living' stage, on average, up to 10 days longer than normal, staying fresh and odor-free."

I checked out Berry Breeze's Amazon reviews just to see if my experience was a fluke. But it seems like most people had luck with it too. There were more than 100 five-star reviews, a few four- and three-star reviews, and only 6 one-star reviews. Some of those bad reviews had to do with Amazon rather than the product, and a couple people complained that the Berry Breeze itself put off a bad odor (even though it's supposed to eliminate odor). But neither Paul nor I can smell anything coming from it.

The device is $49.95, which is honestly more than I'd be willing to pay for something that would extend my produce life. But then again, I typically only buy produce as I need it since I go to the grocery store daily. I don't have lots of fresh goods lingering in my crisper. But if you do, it might be a worthwhile investment.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Whale of an Appetite!

I'm a vegan for animal rights. Sure, my diet's positive effect on my health is nice. But that's not what drives me. That's not what keeps me going. I used to be way more active in animal rights work. I co-founded a little activist group called Memphis Area Animal Rights Activists back in the mid-2000s, and we held actions at KFCs, circuses, Petco, and pretty much anywhere PETA sent us. I also used to be very involved in Memphis' Food Not Bombs chapter. But time has made me lame, and now veganism (and this blog) is my only activism.

But I can live vicariously through other animal rights activists who are out there doing radical things to stand up for those who don't have a voice. One of those awesome activist collectives is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Since 1977, they've been using their own sea vessels to block and disable whaling ships. Sometimes, they shine lasers into the eyes of whalers, and other times they seize and destroy drift nets. They even throw smelly butyric acid onto whaling vessels! If you've seen Whale Wars on Animal Planet, you know all about these awesome activists.

It sounds like hard (and scary) work, and these hardcore activists spend long periods at sea to fight the good fight. And while at sea, you gotta eat! The food served aboard the Sea Shepherd's vessels is always vegan, and it's prepared by a team of skilled chefs. One of those is Laura Dakin, and she's just put out a new cookbook of the recipes she whips up to serve in the mess hall on their ship, the Steve Irwin. I recently received a copy of Cookin' Up a Storm: Sea Stories and Vegan Recipes.

This is part cookbook, part Sea Shepherd memoir. It's filled with both recipes and stories from crew members and Captain Paul Watson (founder of Sea Shepherd) himself. It's a full-color, glossy book with lots of pictures of marine life and scenes from the Sea Shepherd vessels.

So many of the recipes called to me, but I finally settled on Bob Barker Yum Bowls.

The Bob Barker (named for the awesome vegetarian Price Is Right host) is one of their vessels, and this is a recipe from it's galley. It's a layered bowl with a creamy, dreamy sauce. There's brown rice, black beans, corn, roasted potatoes, tomato, and avocado. And that's all topped with a sauce made from silken tofu, almonds, chickpeas, nooch, curry, and herbs. I seriously couldn't stop licking the Vitamix after whipping up this sauce. I loved it on the bowl, but I will probably start using this sauce for everything — over broccoli, over pasta, over nachos, whatever!

Of course, many of the recipes in this book are vegan versions of seafood. There are breaded and fried Fish-Free Cakes made with tofu, chickpeas, and nori. And there's Taste of the Sea Spaghetti, which includes a marinara spiked with nori.

But it's not all fishy stuff. Because the ships are often cruising through cool temps, there are lots of warming soups and stews — Chickpea Noodle Soup for the Vegan Soul, Polar Potato & Leek Soup, and even Captain Paul's Habitat Split Pea Soup.

Sides include Wicked Wine-Soaked Mushrooms (with white wine!), Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Onions (even though Captain Paul discusses his aversion to sweet potatoes in an interview in the book), and Asian-Style Stuffed Dumplings (filled with carrots, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and spices).

The bake their own bread aboard the ships, so there are plenty of bread recipes and tips on baking the perfect loaf. And of course, no one should be stuck at sea without sweets. There's the Captain's Favorite Carrot Cake, Raw Cheesecake to the Rescue, and Chocolate-Banana Fudge Cake. And there's even a spiked snowcone called the Antarctic Tropical Canadian Delight (shaved ice with maple syrup and coconut rum!). Cheers, Sea Shepherd!

Monday, April 27, 2015

New Follow Your Heart Cheeses!

How many of you have been vegan long enough to remember the — cue scary horror music — dark days of vegan cheese? I know that when I first went vegan in 2004, there were only two cheeses on the market. One was good, and I still enjoy it today (I'm talking to you, Tofutti slices!), but the other shall remain nameless. And since vegans didn't have many cheese options, we often tried making our own.

But this was pre-Miyoko's Artisan Vegan Cheese. We didn't know about cashews and fermenting back then. In fact, my first homemade cheese was from a recipe online that called for agar-agar, nooch, mustard, and some other random stuff. It was a wiggly, jello-like blob that didn't taste a thing like cheese.

Well, thank god we've entered a new age! Vegan cheeses are actually great now! And I like most better than I ever liked dairy cheese. That's the case with these new cheeses from Follow Your Heart. I've long been a fan of FYH, which I believe hit market shelves here in Memphis a couple years after I went vegan. And FYH still makes their original soy-based formula, but they have four new cheeses out now that are soy-free and insanely delicious. They sent me some samples!

There's Provolone and American — both available in slices, blocks, and snacks.

And there's Garden Herb and Mozzarella — both available in slices and blocks.

I tried the Garden Herb first, because GARDEN HERB!! This tastes like mozzarella but with hints of thyme and oregano. The texture is very, very similar to that of Field Roast's Chao cheese, and that's probably because both brands use coconut oil for the base. That coconut oil base gives the texture a thick, almost string-cheese quality when it's very cold, and it gets softer as it hits room temperature.

I'm sure Garden Herb would be awesome in a lasagna or on a pizza. But I couldn't stop eating it on crackers long enough to actually use it in a dish. Garden Herb cheese + crackers + red wine = my favorite kind of dinner.

Next, I tried the American snack-size cheese. This comes in a single-serve package that's perfect for toting along on a trip or in your lunch bag. I brought this to work to enjoy with crackers before my Thursday noon yoga class.

This really does taste like the American cheese of my youth!! And as good as it was on a cracker, I thought it was even better by itself. The cracker seemed to mask the mild flavor. I enjoy my vegan cheese unadulterated.

The Provolone slices are probably my favorite of the bunch! It's been YEARS since I've had provolone. And this tastes just like what I remember. The slices were perfect on a multigrain wrap with Field Roast Wild Mushroom deli slices, Wildwood Garlic Aioli, whole grain mustard, lettuce, and tomato.

As much as I really wanted to just eat the Mozzarella straight from the package, I knew I needed to put at least one of these cheeses to the melting test. So I grated some of the block-style mozzarella onto my French bread pizza last night, along with some Tofurky Spinach-Pesto sausage, roasted red peppers, and red onions.

I made two of these little pizzas, one with the cheese under the toppings and one with it on top. After 30 minutes in the oven, the one with the cheese on bottom (pictured above) was super melty and perfect. But the one with cheese on top didn't melt so well. The topmost shreds actually hardened a bit and didn't melt at all. So if you're planning to melt this stuff in the oven, either cover it with toppings or, perhaps, a bit of aluminum foil.

I did heat one pizza up in the microwave this morning, and it melts beautifully that way. The mozzarella made for a great pizza topping, but I had some straight from pack as a snack today. And that's definitely my fave way to enjoy it. The mozzarella really tastes just like string cheese, which is something I've missed. I have a feeling this new FYH cheese will be playing a big role in my life!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sheridan & Drew's Vegan Housewarming!

My friends Sheridan and Drew bought their first house recently. It's in Little Rock, where they've lived for years. But they've always been renters, and now they're owners! Here's a pic of them with their new house a few weeks ago before they cleaned up the yard. I love how this pic looks like the opening shot of some HGTV show.

This past Saturday night, Sheridan and Drew had their housewarming party, and Paul and I made the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Memphis to celebrate with them. Sadly, I failed to take any pics of them together at the party. I kept meaning to. Sheridan and I took about a million selfies though!

And I did get lots of food pics because I never forget those! Sheridan made an awesome vegan spread! There were Vegan Cream Cheese Tortilla Roll-Ups with black olives! I ate so many of these!

And a party just isn't a party without Vegan Pigs in Blankets!

Sheridan also made some Cheeseburger Rotel Dip using vegan crumbles and a noochy sauce. We renamed it Rotel YEAH! Because "burger dip" didn't sound very sexy.

There was Guacamole and Salsa.

And Chocolate Chip Cookies from the PPK! Best chocolate chip cookies EVER!

Dana from Vanishing Veggie came over! And she brought some more snacks — Vegan Chicken Salad and Crackers and some Kite Hill Almond Cream Cheese. But I failed to photograph those. Sheridan did get this shot of Dana ready to devour ALL the pigs in blankets.

Speaking of Dana, Paul and I hung out with her in the area of Sheridan's backyard that I like to call Magic Fairy Circle. It's this lovely, witchy area with trees, bamboo, and all sorts of crystals buried in the yard from the previous owner. If I lived here, I'd never leave the backyard!

Oh, and let's not forget booze! It was a party, right? Sheridan and Drew arranged an ice bucket filled with beers, and there was a bowl of coozies. CUTE!

I picked up some assorted craft beers at Whole Foods there. And this 8-Bit Pale Ale was the highlight for sure! Nice can, light hops.

Happy Housewarming, Sheridan and Drew!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Vegan Fish Tacos!

It's Taco Thursday! Yea, it doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Taco Tuesday. But regardless of what day it is, tacos are always awesome. And can you believe I've never had a fish taco?

Nope. I stopped eating fish long before I went vegetarian at age 14. I just never liked fish all that much, and my parents didn't eat any seafood. So it wasn't something I really grew up with. But I did always love Captain D's when I was a kid. That battered, deep-fried fish was the only kind I liked. Not that I missed it. But when I took my first taste of the Gardein Fishless Filets last year, I thought, "OMG, it's like vegan Captain D's!"

Since then, I've had the Gardein filets a couple times, always deep-fried and served with fries (or chips as the British say), hush puppies, and slaw. But I've been thinking a lot about fish tacos lately, even though I've never had them. I googled "vegan fish tacos" and found this recipe on Homemade Levity, which calls for the Gardein filets. I picked up a package of filets at the Crosstown Kroger (which, by the way, has a better vegan product selection than our Whole Foods). And then, using that recipe, I whipped these up!

Fish tacos, where have you been all my life? Or should I say, fishless tacos? Man, these were so good! Vegan fish (baked in the oven) with pickled cabbage and onions, chipotle cream, cilantro from my herb garden, and a squeeze of lime. And I used whole wheat flour tortillas from Whole Foods.

I'm so glad I get to eat these again tomorrow! On the side, I had a corn tot with the vegan miso butter from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen. It's a miso-olive oil-garlic spread that's so perfect for fresh corn on the cob!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No Cow Bars!

I love protein smoothies and bars, especially for recovery after a hard workout. When I'm running (and I'm currently not due to injury), I follow every run with a protein powder-packed smoothie or a vegan protein bar. But I've found that so many "protein bars" don't actually contain as much protein as my Vega One powders.

But that's not the case with D's Naturals No Cow Bars. These have 21 grams of plant protein! A couple months back, they offered to send me some samples to review. Look at the cute box!

And here's what was inside. There are only three flavors, so they doubled up on Blueberry Cobbler. And there was also Mint Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough.

Taste-wise, I like just about every bar I try! But it's hard to find a bar that meets my protein needs when I'm being all athletic. And this one tastes great and is loaded with protein (from brown rice and peas). It's also low in sugar, rich in iron, and all-natural. The bars are sweetened with monk fruit and stevia, and that cuts down on the calories. Although I don't mind a higher-calorie bar when it's a meal replacement, sometimes I like protein bars as pre-breakfast snacks. These only have 160 to 170 calories. Perfect for a snack!

And the coolest thing about this company is that it was founded by 18-year-old Daniel Katz. Katz got his entrepreneurial start by buying items on Craigslist and reselling them on eBay when he was 12. And since then, he's developed his business skills and runs his own business! How awesome is that? Katz has a great product, so I hope he does well. Gotta support small vegan businesses!

I tried my first No Cow bar — the Blueberry Cobbler — after my Little Rock Half-Marathon. This was in Sheridan's car post-race, after I'd stood in line in the freezing, wet cold waiting for my gear check bag. I was starving and feeling pretty weak because I'd turned down all the free snacks right after the race. At the time, I was just too worn out to even think about taking any free food. Luckily, I'd packed this bar in my bag. When I finally got my bag and got into Sher's warm car, I ripped it open and downed it!

Loved the blueberry flavor. It comes from freeze-dried blueberries, so it's totally natural. As for the texture, imagine if you took protein powder, added a little liquid, and pressed it into bar form. It's very chewy, and it has that creaminess that protein powder has. I know it's weird to describe a bar as creamy, but I can't think of a better word!

As I've mentioned before, I ended up hurting my knee in that race. So I was out for a couple weeks. I did attempt a 3-mile run a couple weeks later, and although my knee started hurting at the end, I still managed to finish the run. So I rewarded myself with the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough flavor. This was my very fave! God, I love peanut butter!

I'd have written this review a lot sooner, but after that 3-miler, I knew I had to take it easy for awhile to really let my knee heal. So I haven't been running enough to justify a protein bar. But then, last Saturday, I just decided to eat one of these as a lunch snack instead. I was doing a booksigning at our Memphis Library's Bookstock event, and that went straight through the lunch hour. So I packed the Mint Chocolate Chip bar.

What a perfect and filling snack! When I ate this bar, I'd not eaten since breakfast about 4 hours prior. And this bar held me over until I left the event a couple hours later. Plus, there were little cacao nibs! I love anything with crunchy nibs!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vegan Drinks: Ramen Edition!

Last week, I blogged about Robata, a new-ish ramen shop in Overton Square. It's vegan-friendly, and they have a full bar. So you know what that means? Vegan Drinks!

We had our monthly Vegan Drinks meetup at Robata tonight! Here's the gang!

I ordered an Izakaya Lemonade to start. This is made with citrus vodka, triple sec, sour mix, and matcha green tea powder. It was a little sweeter than what I'd typically drink. But it was strong, so that made it okay.

Cassi went all high-dollar and ordered some imported sake with vegan jello bits inside. It's something she had when she visited Japan, so she just had to have it even though it was an $11 drink!

We didn't realize until after we ordered that hot sake was half-price for happy hour. So we split an order of that after we finished our first round.

To start, I got the Plum Onigiri — steamed rice ball with umeboshi plum. The plum is on top and stuffed in the center. And those are little pickles on the side.

And Garlic Yakitori because garlic!

My entree came with a side of Vegetable Gyoza. Yum!

For dinner, I ordered the Yasai Ramen, a vegan rice noodle soup with seaweed/soy broth, corn, lettuce, and veggies. But honestly, by the time I got to this, I'd eaten (and drank) all the above, and I was so full that I took two or three bites and took the rest home for tomorrow's lunch.

Most everyone else got some variation on these same items. But Karen got the Shishito Yakitori — Japanese peppers. She said it tasted like okra!

And Vaughan ordered Seaweed Salad. 

Cassi and Karen both ordered the Age-dashi Tofu without the bonito (fish) and dashi sauce (fish). So it was just fried tofu with radish. Yum!

And of course, Cassi had to be difficult and go off-menu with her ramen order. The Yasai Ramen is already vegan and comes with veggies, but instead Cassi ordered the Yasai broth with fillings from another soup that isn't typically vegan. Hers had seaweed/soy broth with added seaweed and bean sprouts.

If you're local and want to hang out at the next Vegan Drinks meetup in May, here's our Facebook page!