Monday, November 30, 2015


Confession: I don't really like fresh fruit. Strawberries are okay, and I do love me some bananas. But I rarely crave fresh fruit. And if you give me a choice of snacks, fresh fruit is typically the last thing I'll choose. But that's not to say that I don't like the taste of fruit. I think it's the juicy, fibrousness that turns me off.

I usually get my fruit group in through smoothies or fresh juices because I do like fruit in liquid form. And I also love dried fruit in trail mixes and just for snackin'. And apparently, I also love freeze-dried fruit because the folks from Crunchies sent me some of their fruit snacks to review, and I absolutely loved them. 

They sent over all seven flavors — Mixed Fruit (above) and Raspberries, Strawberry Banana, Grapes, Blueberries, Pineapple, and Strawberries (below).

Out the seven, the Grapes were definitely my fave. I've had freeze-dried strawberries and blueberries in cereal before, but freeze-dried grapes were totally new to me. Grapes have always been one of my least favorite fruits because they're so cold and mushy and eyeball-ish. But when you suck out the liquid and shrink it down in freeze-dried form, you get super-concentrated sweet flavor without all that weird texture stuff. I've been snacking on these at my desk just like this.

I also a huge fan of the Strawberry Banana and the Mixed Fruit, mostly because freeze-dried bananas are awesome. They're similar to banana chips, but they don't have that oily, fried mouthfeel. The strawberry banana made a perfect oatmeal topper (pictured below), and the mixed fruit (with strawberry, banana, & blueberry) have made great desk snacks.

I enjoyed the Pineapple by itself one afternoon while coloring in my new adult coloring book. When I eat fresh pineapple, it burns my mouth and leaves my tongue feeling all weird. But this dried pineapple had all the yummy, sweet pineapple flavor without that burning sensation.

I also have been snacking on the Strawberries by themselves. Freeze-dried strawberries are a classic in cereal, but they never give you enough in your box of cornflakes. Now I can have a whole bowl!

The Blueberry made an excellent yogurt topping for this Kite Hill Blueberry Artisan Almond Milk Yogurt. I do actually really love fresh blueberries, maybe because they're less fibrous and small enough that their mushy insides don't bother me. But I think I actually love these freeze-dried berries better. Plus, they're good to eat year-round, and this is definitely not blueberry season.

My least fave were the Raspberries. I tried to enjoy some with some Kite Hill vanilla yogurt and Larabar dried fruit & seed mix. But the freeze-dried raspberries were just so tart! When you condense the already tart flavor of raspberries down to freeze-dried form, they're a little hard to eat. I could only a eat a few before it was overwhelming. I'd say these are best for when you're craving something sour, but you just want a little taste. A few are all you need.

I would totally buy most of these (except raspberries). They make great snacks, and they're an excellent way for the fresh fruit averse to get their fruit group in. They'd also be great for car snacks or for camping.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Black Friday Veganaversary!

I went vegetarian at age 14 in 1994 on the day after Thanksgiving. Eating animals just didn't make sense to me. Why would I eat a turkey but not my dog or cat or hamster? I was a headstrong kid with big ideas of saving the world and making a difference, so it was a fairly easy transition despite living in small-town Arkansas and only knowing one other vegetarian (my friend Purvi). Plus, I could still eat cheese and eggs, and lawd did I eat some cheese and eggs back then!

But in 2004, at age 24, I'd gotten even more active in the animal rights movement. I was living in Memphis and doing lots of PETA demos. I even helped launch a now-defunct group called Memphis Area Animal Rights Activists. As I learned more about the horrors of dairy- and egg-farming, going vegan seemed imperative. So I made the vegan switch on the day after Thanksgiving in 2004.

Although the date for the day after Thanksgiving changes from year to year, it's easier for me to just celebrate my veganaversary on Black Friday. So this past Black Friday, I celebrated 11 years vegan and 21 years vegetarian. Like you do on the day after Thanksgiving, I started the day with a slice of leftover pie — Chocolate Pecan Pie with CocoWhip!

It also just so happens that my mama and I have a Black Friday shopping ritual too. Every year, she drives to Memphis, and we go out to brunch before hitting the stores. We don't do the early-bird stuff, just late afternoon shopping after the crowds have dispersed. For years, we've started our annual holiday shopping trip with brunch at Brother Juniper's. But this year, we decided to mix things up with a meal at the new LYFE Kitchen.

I LOVE LYFE KITCHEN!! But it's only been open a few months, and I hadn't had a chance to try their vegan breakfast yet. So I finally got to try this Morning Veggie Wrap — a whole wheat wrap stuffed with tofu scramble, Daiya cheddar, roasted mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and avocado. OMG, this is so good. Possibly my new fave breakfast in Memphis.

On the side, we split some Chipotle Potato Hash topped with spicy vegan aioli!

After brunch, we hit up the new H&M and scored some great deals, including a new wool-free vegan peacoat for me! It's so hard to find wool-free peacoats, but H&M has them. And they're cheap! My mama suggested we eat out again for dinner, but I was really looking forward to a plate of leftovers at home. It's rare that I'll turn down a free meal. But Thanksgiving leftovers are basically the best thing ever. I heated up this leftovers plate after we finished shopping.

I've since eaten several other leftovers plates just like this over the weekend. And I still have some leftovers for the week. Win!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!

I'm back home in Memphis after a day of STUFFING MY FACE in Jonesboro, Arkansas with my family. We had a pared-down Thanksgiving celebration this year since my Granny was in Nashville visiting my cousin Tiffaney's family, and the other random family members who pop in some years were all doing their own thing.

So it was just me, my mama and daddy, my me-maw, and Paul. I really meant to get pictures of everyone, but I was so full that I forgot. Thankfully, Paul at least convinced me to get off my over-stuffed butt and take this pic of us. I'm wearing my "Save a Turkey, Eat Tofu" shirt that I used to wear every Thanksgiving for years. I retired it a couple years ago, because I realized every Thanksgiving picture from every year has me wearing the same thing. But I figured it was time to bring it back. Also, Paul realized later that he's wearing the same shirt he wore last year. Oh well.

There are no pictures of my parents or me-maw. But of course, like a good food blogger, I didn't forget the food photos. Every year, I have some sort of vegan roast. I try to mix it up between Tofurky, Gardein, and Field Roast. This year, I went with Tofurky because it was on sale. And who doesn't love a classic Tofurky?

My mama makes all the side dishes vegan, so I can eat them, too. Her Vegan Dressin' is basically the best thing on Earth. Everyone looks forward to my mama's dressin' every year. I'm so glad she sent me home with almost a whole pan for leftovers! 

By the way, if you're reading this and you're not from the South, you should know that dressin' and stuffing are two different things. Down here, we eat dressin' made with cornbread instead of stuffing made with torn bits of stale bread. It tends to be more moist than stuffing. I love stuffing too, but on Thanksgiving, the dressin' is the most essential part of the Southern meal.

Hash Brown Casserole is a Thanksgiving staple for us. My mama makes it vegan with Daiya cheddar, homemade non-dairy cream of celery soup, and Earth Balance. She usually adds cornflakes on top, but this year, she mixed things up with some french fried onions.

You gotta have Buttered Corn (made with Earth Balance) and Green Beans too. 

Homemade Cranberry Sauce, for eating alongside the Tofurky, is a must. Mama used to always buy the canned stuff, but for the past several years, she's been making it from scratch. This year, she added a little cinnamon.

And Dinner Rolls. Gotta have dinner rolls!

Our salad varies from year to year. This year, mama made this amazing Marinated Coleslaw! It's crazy flavorful and sort of tangy, sweet, and sour all at the same time.

Here's my plate (minus the salad, which I put on a separate plate)! I had a bit too much food stuffed on here, and I'm still full at 8 p.m. (we ate at 1 p.m.). But isn't overindulging, like, the whole point of Thanksgiving?

Despite being super full, I somehow found room for dessert. Mama made this Chocolate Coconut Pecan Pie. I had a tiny slice, but I brought some home, and I can't wait to try it with a dollop of CocoWhip on top for breakfast!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Get Naked!

Okay, don't get naked, please. Leave your pants on. I'm actually just here to review Naked Nutrition protein powders, which are perfect for post-run smoothies. And smoothies are cold and, thus, best enjoyed with clothes on.

Anyway, about these protein powders: The folks from Naked Nutrition contacted me a few weeks ago about reviewing their single-ingredient protein powders. Two of their flavors are vegan, so I'll only be discussing the vegan ones. That would be Naked Pea and Naked Rice.

I typically drink three smoothies a week, as post-workout breakfasts on my running days. But I'm accustomed to the vegan powders that are flavored, nutrient-enhanced, and stevia-sweetened, like Vega One, Garden of Life, Yuve, or Manitoba Harvest. These Naked powders, however, are exactly what they say they are — naked.

The Naked Pea powder is straight up yellow pea protein. It has 27 grams of plant-based protein per scoop, plus a very tiny amount of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. And the Naked Rice is made from sprouted brown rice protein. That's it. It has 25 grams of protein and a tad more naturally occurring iron and phosphorus than the pea protein.

I'm not typically one to totally avoid processed foods, but if you're looking to do that — whether for a cleanse or a life change — these powders would definitely be the best for that. Of course, anything that goes from whole form to powdered form is processed, but these seem closer to whole foods since they're so simple.

I created a couple of simple smoothies with these powders, and I'm sharing the recipes below. I found that both powders made for thick and creamy smoothies with no gritty, powdered taste. You do have to add your own sweetener though, so I used Bee-Free Honee in these recipes. Agave would work too. Both powders kept me full after my workout for hours.

Naked Cacao Banana Smoothie
1 scoop Naked Brown Rice Protein
1 frozen banana
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp. raw cacao powder (or any cocoa powder)
1 tbsp. vegan honey substitute (Bee-Free Honee, agave, or maple syrup)

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Naked Green Pineapple-Strawberry Smoothie
1 scoop Naked Pea Protein
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup kale (or any dark leafy green, like collards or turnip greens)
1 tsp. spirulina
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp. vegan honey substitute (Bee-Free Honee, agave, or maple syrup)

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck

Every year, our vegan social club — Food Awareness — holds a vegan Thanksgiving potluck in one of our members' homes. Honestly, for the past couple years, that's about all we've done as a group. Food Awareness, which used to meet for monthly vegan lunch outings, went on a semi-permanent hiatus because our main organizer dude Vaughan needed a break, and another vegan meetup group — Memphis Vegan Dine-outs & Potlucks — had started up to fill the void.

But we still have that annual potluck, and this year, we made it a joint event with the new meetup group, which I'm also a member of. So it ended up being a GIANT vegan potluck! I'd say we had at least 50 people come through. I tried to capture images of all the food, but I don't think I even managed to cover half of it. So many latecomers kept showing up with more dishes!

I blogged yesterday about what I brought — the Holiday Cornucopia with Roasted Cauliflower, Acorn Squash, Mushrooms, Brussels, Onions, & Carrots from Vegetarian Times. You can read all about how I made this crazy bread cone and find links to the recipes on yesterday's post.

Here's what everyone else brought — or least what I managed to photograph. My fave dish of the night was Anju's Nacho Casserole. It may not be a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but who cares?! It's a cheesy Mexican casserole with layers of tortilla and vegan cheese.

Anju actually went all out and brought 4 dishes! She also brought a yummy Hash Brown Casserole. It's a staple in my family's Thanksgiving, so it was good to see that there!

And she brought this fun twist on stuffing. It's Lasagna-Style Stuffing with vegan cheese, zucchini, & chickpea flour. So yummy!

I'll get to other dish later when I add the dessert pics. I'm posting all the savories first, like these Crostini with Rosemary White Bean Spread. No idea who brought this, but the spread was fantastic!

Someone brought a massive pot of vegan-buttery Mashed Potatoes because if it's gonna be that kind of party ...

This was a yummy casserole with rice, veggies, and breadcrumbs. Not sure who brought this either. Wish I'd taken a shot of the inside, so you could see what was under those crumbs.

Elizabeth brought this Roasted Cauliflower, Leek, & Fennel Soup that I didn't get a chance to try. When I was going down the line to fill my plate, I realized that I didn't have a bowl. And then after I got out of line, there was a massive line behind me. So I thought I'd come back and get some when the line died down. But by the time I made it back, I didn't see the pot there anymore. 

Vaughan and Nicole, who hosted the party at their house, made this dish of pasta, beans, and millet. Healthy and delicious.

They also made a big pot of this Moroccan-style rice with raisins. Loved the flavors in this. 

And they made the world's biggest bowl of Kale Salad. Sadly, I didn't get any of this because my plate was full by the time I made it to that side of the table. Probably should have eaten more greens though.

Not sure who brought this, but it was a really flavorful Black-eyed Pea & Quinoa Salad. It tasted a little like tabouleh but with quinoa.

Adam and Kristie, the owners of Imagine Vegan Cafe, showed up late, after I was already super-full. But they brought their famous Spinach-Artichoke Dip from the restaurant, so I just had to make another plate!

Brad and Sharon showed up late too, but they brought this lovely pumpkin stuffed with Pumpkin Stew. I put some in a bowl and took it home to have for lunch today. It was wonderful! It had beans and corn, and it tasted just like fall.

Not pictured was the awesome gluten-free Vegan Margarita Pizza from Whole Foods, Pam's Roasted Brussels & Squash, Judith's Raw Sweet Potato Pie, Stephen's Lentil-Walnut Pate, Grace's Spicy Cashew Noodle Salad, and probably a bunch of other yummy stuff I missed. There was just so much food! Here's my savory plate (or at least the first one).

Now for dessert. Remember when I said that Anju brought 4 dishes. Well, her other contribution were these awesome Indian Kulfi bars. It's vegan ice cream — some with tamarind-fig and others with cardamom-rose. I went with cardamom-rose because cardamom! Really enjoyed these.

Susan made this perfect Chocolate Pie. Creamy, rich, smooth. Yummy!

And finally, Amy walked in a little late with this Vegan Pumpkin Pie. I don't get pumpkin pie at home on Thanksgiving because my parents think they don't like it, so this was a real treat. I shared my slice with Pam since someone in front of her in line got the last piece.

There were a few more desserts that showed up too. But by that time, I was too stuffed to even care about taking pictures. Now, I just have to find room to do it all over again this Thursday!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Vegan Cornucopia Thanksgiving Centerpiece

I'm very lucky that I have an awesome mom who makes everything vegan at Thanksgiving. Well, she makes a turkey. But all the sides are vegan. And I always bring a centerpiece for myself. Typically, that's a Tofurky or a Field Roast Celebration Roast (or some other vegan turkey stand-in). And this year will be no different. Already grabbed my Tofurky on sale at Whole Foods for $10. 

But I've always thought it'd be cool to experiment with a veg-based centerpiece. I love plant meat, and part of the joy of Thanksgiving is having all that leftover Tofurky for sandwiches, wraps, and leftover plates piled high with dressin', cranberry sauce, and all the fixins. 

But tonight, our Memphis vegan social club held our annual Thanksgiving potluck. Since I kinda got two Thanksgivings this year, it seemed like a good time to put a veg-centric centerpiece to the test. I can still have my Tofurky next week, but for tonight, I put together this Holiday Cornucopia with Fork-and-Knife Roasted Vegetables from Vegetarian Times.

Isn't it gorgeous?! I have to admit that I'm pretty impressed with my ability to pull this off. This dish was on the cover of last month's Vegetarian Times

I kept glancing at it and thinking how cool it'd be to make it, but I'm not really a bread baker. And the recipe seemed a little intimidating. But it was actually pretty simple. I mean, it was time-consuming with all the dough rising and shaping and baking and veggie roasting. But it was so worth it. You can find the recipe for the Holiday Bread Cornucopia online here and the Fork-and-Knife Roasted Vegetables here.

Here's a quick rundown of how this is made. First, you make a dough and let it rise overnight. Then you roll it out in sections and cut it into strips. You make a cone shape using posterboard, and then that's covered in foil (so the poster doesn't catch on fire in the oven). Then you wrap the strips of dough around the cone.

The recipe calls for an egg wash on the dough to help it brown, but to make it vegan, I substituted a little Karo syrup thinned with water. When you brush dough with sugar water, it works in the same way as an egg to help the bread brown. That's because the sugar burns a little in the oven. 

Halfway through baking, you take the bread out of the oven and remove the cone.

And when it's totally done, you brush the whole thing with vegan margarine.

As for the stuffing, I used the roasted veggie recipe from Vegetarian Times that goes with the cornucopia. It has acorn squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onions, and mushrooms. Even though it wasn't in the recipe, I added carrots. The recipe instructs you to brush the roasted veggies with a balsamic-honey-olive oil glaze. But I substituted Bee-Free Honee. Agave syrup or even maple would also work.

And that's it! The dish was a huge hit at the potluck. At first, people were just spooning out veggies onto their plates and not touching the bread. I think maybe they weren't sure how to eat it. But once I made it down the line to my cornucopia, I took a knife and dug right in, cutting off a big chunk of bread. Others followed suit, and by the end of the night, all of the bread was gone and only a few Brussels sprouts were left on the platter.

If you're looking for an impressive centerpiece for your Thanksgiving celebration, check out the recipe links above on Vegetarian Times.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My November Goddess Box!!

Last month, I signed up for Goddess Provisions, a monthly subscription box filled with crystals, essential oils, teas, vegan chocolates, vegan beauty products, and more. It's by Jill and John, the folks who run Vegan Cuts, so you already know it's awesome.

I'd previously subscribed to the Vegan Cuts Beauty Box, which was fantastic. But the Goddess Provisions box seemed more my speed. It still includes the occasional vegan beauty product, but you also get cool new age-y things. And everything in the Goddess box is full-sized, no sample products. You can see the unpacking of my first box in October here. But tonight, I wanted to share what was inside my November box.

There's a Healing Crystals Oracle Deck, a Kishu Charcoal water filter, Rawxies Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough cookie, 100% Pure vegan mascara, 21 drops Passion oil, and a red quartz crystal. Also, Goddess Provisions subscribers get a free online sacral chakra balancing yoga class by Michelle Shea Walker.

So far, the boxes have been tailored to one chakra at a time. Last month, it was the Third Eye Chakra, and this month's focus was the Sacral Chakra — our source of passion and creativity.

The Red Quartz is ideal for grounding, so it's perfect for helping to balance our lower chakras — root and sacral. I'll definitely be meditating with this soon. Love that deep red color.

The Healing Crystals deck is probably my favorite thing this time. This is deck #2. Healing Crystals makes three decks, and I already had #1, which was in a Vegan Cuts Yoga Box I ordered last year. Each deck contains cards for various crystals, and they tell you what chakras are associated with what crystals and what the crystals are used for.

The coolest part, though, is on the back of each card! There's a mantra associated with each crystal!

The 100% Pure brand mascara is super-amazing!! It's tinted with real cocoa, and when I applied it this morning, I couldn't stop sniffing the applicator. It smells like a chocolate bar! Yes, I did get mascara on my nose in case you were wondering.

I also love the passion oil. I'm a sucker for a good roll-on essential oil blend. This one contains jasmine, rose, sandalwood, and cardamom oils, and it's designed to release inhibitions, promote magnetism, and heighten sensuality.

The Kishu Charcoal water filter is pretty neat. It's a to-go filter designed to fit into a 16-ounce water bottle. You just drop it in and leave it, and it filters out toxins, like lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, and chlorine, while imparting good stuff, like calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It's totally reusable and good for about four months! I love that the Goddess box also has this kind of cool Earthy, hippie stuff.

I had the Rawxies treat today before my noon yoga class! Tasted like a chocolate chip cookie but totally healthy. It's got a base of gluten-free oat flour with sunflower seeds, almonds, coconut, dates, chocolate, cinnamon, and vanilla. Kept me powered through yoga, and it tasted like dessert.

After I signed up for the monthly box in October, I applied to be a Goddess Provisions ambassador. That doesn't mean I get anything free. I still pay $33 a month for my box, but if other people sign up using my link, I'll make a small commission. So, if you're interested in signing up for Goddess Provisions, use my link please! Thanks!! Namate, y'all.