Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wild Garden Marinades & Pilafs

Wild Garden — the company best known for its hummus — has new line of packaged marinades and heat-and-serve pilafs. They sent me a lovely care package to review on the blog. There were three marinades (Persian, Schwarma, and Turkish) and three pilafs (Bulgur, Couscous, and Rice & Lentil), some recipe cards, and a fun Wild Garden apron!

Unfortunately, one of the pilafs wasn't vegan. The Rice & Lentil contained butter, so I gifted that to a co-worker. But the remaining products were all animal-free! I've tried a few things, so I thought I'd go ahead and review those now, and I'll save the rest for a post in late January. In just a few days, I start my Reset & Restore challenge, so I'm knocking out as many review posts as I can!

Last night, I used the Schwarma Marinade to make this delectable Schwarma Tempeh Wrap.

I used a recipe that was included in the care package, but it was so easy, I didn't even really need a recipe. I simply sliced a package of tempeh into strips and steamed it for about ten minutes to remove any bitterness. Then I poured the Schwarma marinade — a mixture of cardamom, cumin, herbs, and oil — over the strips and let them rest for 15 minutes.

The tempeh was then pan-fried in a skillet and stuffed into homemade naan, along with some roasted garlic hummus, cherry tomato, lettuce, and red onion. That naan, by the way, is from Terry Hope Romero's Vegan Eat World cookbook, and it's just the greatest thing since sliced bread. I made a bunch awhile back and froze it for occasions just like this.

I used the Persian Marinade on some tofu for salads, which I've been enjoying all week. I just poured the marinade (made with garlic, sumac, fennel, and oil) over some cubed tofu and baked it in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Because the marinade has a good bit of oil in it (the package even suggests using it alone as a salad dressing), I didn't even need to add an oily dressing to my salad. I just added a splash of balsamic vinegar and fresh veggies. The spicy, garlicky flavors from the marinade really complemented the tangy vinegar.

I tried the Couscous Heat-and-Serve Pilaf last week alongside some baked spaghetti squash.

This no-fuss side is already cooked and seasoned. All you have to do is microwave the pouch for a few seconds. Each bag contains about two servings.

The couscous was a traditional Mediterranean dish called maftoul, which is pearl couscous and chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce. It had a great flavor that didn't require any extra dressing up. And the grains were soft and tender, just as if they'd been cooked on the stovetop.

I'll be back with reviews of the Bulgur Pilaf and Turkish Marinade soon! But I may not get a chance to try them for a few weeks. I'll check in with one more Stuff I Ate post on Sunday, and then it's all super-healthy reset and restore eats for a few weeks!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Vegan Meatballs at IKEA!

Memphis just got an IKEA! It opened about a week before Christmas, but I didn't make it over there until this past Monday. My friend Susan suggested we check it out then since we were both off work for the holiday. We knew the place would be packed since EVERYBODY was off, but we went in fully prepared to be there for several hours. You don't just make a quick trip into IKEA. It's an experience, right?

We spent a good deal of time browsing in the showrooms, imagining how much cooler our own homes could look if we just tossed out everything we had and started over with IKEA furniture and accessories. And then, about an hour into our experience, we found ourselves at the cafe in the center of the store. We'd heard they had vegan Swedish meatballs, and we were both very excited to try them (Susan is a vegetarian). The food line was massive, and it took about 30 minutes to get to the counter. But once there, the service was cafeteria style and went quickly.

As we waited in line, we passed a cooler of Swedish drink boxes. I went with the Dryck Flader elderflower drink. It was quite refreshing and only lightly floral and slightly sweet. The other one in this pic is lingonberry.

We also passed a grab-your-own salad case where they had the IKEA Harvest Salad — some with chicken and some without. Obviously, I grabbed a vegan one. It was a simple salad with mixed greens, cherry tomato, walnuts, and dried cranberries. I picked up a packet of Newman's Own Lite Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette to dress it.

Finally, we approached the counter, where we were greeted by this glowing sign.

The Vegetable Balls plate comes with lentil ragout and a vegetable pilaf. Everything was fantastic! The balls were loaded with veggies and very flavorful. The lentils were warm and hearty and tomato-y. The pilaf was flecked with chewy grains (wheat berries?), zucchini, green onions, and red bell pepper.

We loved the balls so much that we each grabbed bags of the frozen vegetable balls from the adjoining Swedish food market. I also picked up a jar of IKEA's lingonberry jam so I can make the traditional Swedish meatball dish at home. We noticed that lots of IKEA's food products in the grocery area were vegan — the IKEA cookies, the crispbreads, jams, mustards, even some of the gummy candies.

I don't know how often I'll make it out to the magical land of IKEA, but I'm glad to know it's there. I'll most certainly be hitting them up next time I need furniture. I can't really buy nice, expensive things since my animals destroy everything. But IKEA is perfect for fur mamas who need more disposable furniture.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Vegan Fitness for Mortals

It's almost 2017! And thank god, right? 2016 has been a hell of a crappy year on a national scale, and to top it off, we lose George Michael and Carrie Fisher in the same week. Wtf?? Anyway, with the new year come new goals! I don't know about y'all, but I'm a big believer in New Year's resolutions, so long as they're healthy and achievable (and not coming from a place of body negativity or body shame).

Like most people, fitness goals generally always top my list. Last year, I resolved to run a marathon in 2016. And I did! I completed the St. Jude Marathon in early December. In 2017, I'd like to run at least one more marathon (maybe two? three?) and a couple more half-marathons. I know I can PR my half-marathon time now, and that's in the list of 2017 goals. Additionally, I'd like to start lifting slightly heavier things and work on my arm game. As a runner, I tend to neglect my arms completely. 

For any vegans looking to lay out a few 2017 fitness goals, there's a new book by my friend Ellen Jaffe Jones. It's called Vegan Fitness for Mortals, and it lays out basic plans to get started in everything from walking to running to swimming to yoga. 

Ellen has written (and co-authored) a number of vegan cookbooks — Eat Vegan on $4 a Day, Kitchen Divided, and Paleo Vegan. But outside the kitchen, she's a fitness warrior. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of tabling with Ellen at New Orleans Veggie Fest, since we share a publisher (Book Publishing Company). At the time, I was training for my first half-marathon, and Ellen, who has run a number of marathons, gave me all sorts of tips and encouragement.

This book is NOT a cookbook. Instead, it's organized by chapter for warmups and cool-downs, walking, running, biking, swimming, weight training, and yoga. With each, Ellen provides some basics for beginners and tips on taking fitness to the next level. The yoga chapter includes 10 basic asanas, and the walking/running chapters include a couch-to-5K-style, day-by-day program for building up mileage.

Plus, there's a chapter on using body weight and walls/furniture for at-home exercises if you'd rather not join a gym. There's also a chapter on avoiding injury, which I could have used a few years back when it seemed like I couldn't run more than a month or two without an injury setback. 

So where does the vegan part come in? There's a chapter on fitness nutrition with info on where to get your protein for muscle recovery, your carbs for fuel, your fat from nuts and seeds, your vitamins and minerals from veggies, and your electrolytes from fruits. And Ellen goes over her favorite breakfasts, snacks, lunches, dinners, and pre-workout treats. Plus, there are three smoothie recipes — the only recipes in the entire book!

If you're looking to get started in a new (to you) type of fitness, this book would be a great start! Happy 2017!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Big Christmas Recap!

Hope y'all had a great holiday weekend! I certainly did. And I have so many pics to share, so let's get started.

On Christmas Eve, around 3 p.m., I made the hour drive to my parents' house in Jonesboro, Arkansas. And lo and behold, when I walked in the door, my mama said, "I made a vegan cheeseball." Magic to my ears! I hauled my presents and luggage in and headed straight for the cheese plate. This Vegan Cranberry Cheeseball was made with Tofutti cream cheese and Daiya cheddar, as well as nuts, onions, cranberry sauce, and spices. It was wonderful, and I ate a fair share before dinner and throughout the weekend.

After snacks, we headed out to grab some real dinner. We typically eat out for Christmas Eve dinner, but since Jonesboro is a small town, it's always a struggle to find places that are still open for dinner on the holiday. Generally, there are a handful of Asian places open though. We settled on Chin Chin Express, an Asian fusion takeout place with both Chinese and Japanese options. There are a few tables, so we opted to dine in, but my Stir-Fried Vegetable Udon was still served in a takeout box. Perfect since it was way more than I could eat at once.

We split an order of Vegetable Spring Rolls too.

After dinner, we headed back to their house for presents! Most years, we open gifts on Christmas Eve, and this year was no exception. My mom's Christmas tree is in a weird place by the front door, so instead of gathering around the tree, we pulled up a fireplace on Netflix and opened gifts in front of the TV.

It's just the three of us — me, mama, and daddy — so mama put me in charge of handing out gifts. She made me wear the Santa hat.

Here's my mama with one of her gifts from my dad — new cowboy boots. She LOVES boots.

My badass biker dad got some new sunglasses that are made for motorcycling.

I got lots of new clothes, a FitBit Surge (more on that in a few), a cool vintage squirrel nut bowl, some locally made vegan soaps, sheets for our bed, and more! After gifts, my mama broke out her famous Peanut Butter Pie! This creamy pie is made with a base of peanut butter, CocoWhip, and vegan cream cheese. It sits in a graham cracker crust and is topped with chocolate ganache and peanuts. It's a favorite of both my dad and me!

We watched some TV while I waited for my best friend Sheridan to finish up gifts with her family. Sheridan lives in Little Rock now, and I'm in Memphis. But we both grew up in Jonesboro, and we've been best friends since the 7th grade. We're always both home for the holidays, so we get together for about an hour on Christmas Eve night.

Sheridan FINALLY finished up with her large family around 11 p.m., and I headed over to her husband Drew's dad's house, where she was busy making homemade vegan cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast. Here's me, Sheridan, and Drew.

Drew had made some Vegan Rum Balls, so we snacked on those and drank some spiked vegan almond nog. 

And then we exchanged gifts! Sheridan always gifts me a loaf of her amazing Vegan Zucchini Bread. It's sooooooo good. Paul and I fight over it every year. This year, since he was with his family, I got first dibs. Sheridan also gifted me a crystal healing book and a mermaid pillow!

I went back to my parents' house around 1 a.m. and immediately went to bed. Then I got up Christmas morning and went out for a short run to test my new FitBit Surge! This is FitBit's only GPS watch, and it's amazing. I've been using a FitBit Charge HR (and a FitBit One before that), and they were great devices, but neither gave a read-out of current pace. The Surge does, and it's just what I needed! After a workout, it gives a summary with average heart rate and pace and mileage as well.

While my dad slept in and I ran around the neighborhood, my mama and me-maw went to church. So after my run, my dad and I sat around and waited for them to return so we could eat Christmas brunch. We always have a big breakfast, but this year, since Christmas fell on a Sunday and mama wanted to go to church, we did brunch instead. She made a big meal of Tofu Scramble, Biscuits & Gravy, Hash Browns, and Vegan Sausage for me. My mama ate tofu scramble too, but my dad and me-maw had real eggs and meat.

Here's a fun family shot — me-maw (mama's mom), mama, daddy, and me! My granny (daddy's mom) spent this Christmas in El Dorado, Arkansas, with my dad's brother.

We were STUFFED after brunch, but mama got a new air fryer for Christmas, and we were anxious to test it out. We waited about an hour for our food to digest a bit, and then we tried an easy recipe for Avocado Fries — air-fried, panko-crusted avocado slices. We dipped them in Chipotle Just Mayo. These were awesome! Now I want an air fryer!

I headed back to Memphis around 4 p.m. so I could get back in time to feed Maynard and the kitties. Once my gifts were put away, I changed into my new Christmas PJs and fixed a Vegan Holiday Nog Cocktail in the Vitamix — frozen banana, Califia Farms Holiday Nog, almond-cashew milk, spiced rum, and So Delicious CocoWhip Light. Then I settled in on the recliner and binged on The OA on Netflix. A relaxing end to an awesome holiday weekend!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Winter Solstice Eats! And Cute Animals!

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the longest night of year! And that means from here on out, the days will get longer and longer, and the nights will get shorter. I always do a little Solstice celebration with lots of yummy food. And afterward, the pets get to open their Solstice gifts.

I started yesterday morning with a 5-mile run, followed by a Holiday Nog Protein Smoothie.

This smoothie was so amazing that I had to have another one this morning! It's made with 1/2 cup of Califia Farms Holiday Nog (the best!), 1/2 cup So Delicious Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut Yogurt, 1/2 frozen banana, 1 chopped Bosc pear, 1 scoop Nutiva Superfood Shake Vanilla protein powder, and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. Topped with So Delicious CocoWhip!

A few weeks back, I ordered the Goddess Provisions Winter Solstice box, and I used most of the magical Solstice items throughout the day (Frisky Fish frankincense oil blend, House of Good Vibes Winter Solstice candle, Dark Exact cleansing kit, Moon Souls Solar Soak bath salts). Around 3-ish, I enjoyed the ZenBunni MoonJuice chocolate at my desk at work. This was a dark chocolate square made with biodynamic and organic phycocyanin-infused salt, 70% cacao, maple crystals, and cane jaggery. Amazing! Salted chocolate is the best! Btw, I keep yellow fluorite on my desk for focus, pyrite for success, and quartz because it's just generally amazing.

For my Solstice feast, I made the Baked Spaghetti Squash from Cooking By the Seasons. This was spaghetti squash mixed with garlic-simmered roma tomatoes and topped with fresh basil. On the side, I had some Wild Garden Couscous & Chickpea Pilaf (more on that in an upcoming review post) and a green salad with tofu.

After dinner, it was time to give the pets their gifts! Maynard got a big ole chew bone. No, he's not vegan. And as much as I hate to give him rawhide, it's literally the only chew toy he can safely have. Maynard is a serious chewer, and he's been known to eat plastic toys. A few years back, he had to have surgery after he swallowed a large chunk of an Extreme Kong.

The cats got some new catnip toys and balls. They weren't that interested in their toys until I poured a bunch of straight catnip all over the floor. And then they were totally high! Here's Akasha, Ozzy, Gelfling, and Polaris.

And Pandora was rolling around in catnip.

Even Seymour — my shy kitty who lives above the kitchen cabinets — got into it!

Happy Solstice, y'all! And happy holidays! I'll be back with a full Christmas report on Monday night!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

More Stuff I Ate

More random food pics! Here are a few things I've been eating lately!

I met up with my brunch bitches on Sunday at Imagine Vegan Cafe and ordered one of the new menu items — the Spinach Artichoke Quesadilla. This is basically a quesadilla stuffed with Imagine's famous, homemade spinach-artichoke dip. It's just perfect. Great with guacamole.

Imagine occasionally offers doughnuts on Sundays, and when they do, I cannot resist. I ordered a Vanilla-Oreo Frosted Doughnut. Mmmmmm.

My friend Andy hosted a small gift exchange at his house on Saturday night, and he made his delicious Vegan Black Bean Cream Cheese Dip (just one tub of Tofutti cream cheese topped with one can of Amy's black bean chili and baked in the oven). Mike brought his usual — Vegan Pigs in Blankets, some stuffed with Field Roast Apple-Maple Sausages and others stuffed with Italian Sausage Tofurky. I brought leftovers of each home. Here's a leftovers plate.

I also used some of the leftover dip on baked potatoes. Enjoyed here with Steamed Broccoli & Cauliflower with Heidi Ho Smoky Chia Cheese.

On Monday night, Paul and I had planned to go to dinner somewhere. But it was so cold, so we opted for hot soup takeout and Netflix instead. I got the Vegetable Ramen from Crazy Noodle, enjoyed while watching an especially creepy episode of Black Mirror.

I recently ordered two jars of D's Naturals Fluffbutter — dessert-flavored protein peanut butter — after hearing about it on the Rise & Resist podcast. I had some after a run — one bagel topped with Vanilla Maple Frosting Fluffbutter and the other topped with Chocolate S'mores Fluffbutter. Y'all, this stuff taste like magic.

Also had some of the S'mores Fluffbutter in my oats Monday morning.

And finally, I'm making an effort to clear out my freezer and pantry in preparation for my January healthy eating challenge (doing the Reset & Restore by Lacy Davis and Jessica Wilkins --- you can still sign up here! Use the code RIOTSNOTDIETS to save 10%!). Today's lunch was some frozen Vegan Bacon, Potato, & Cheese Perogies that I'd made from Baconish awhile back. Sides of Cumin Roasted Carrots and Sauteed Garlic Spinach.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stuff I Ate

It's time for another two-day installment of "stuff I ate" — my monthly series of random meal pics.

My friend Pam just got a job in Midtown, not far from where I work/live. So we decided we'll start lunching a couple days of the work week each month. For our first lunch, we went to Fuel Cafe, home of the best Veggie Burger in Memphis (IMO, anyway). Fuel has lots of vegan options (including a vegan-style TV dinner!!), but we were in the mood for burgers. Here's mine topped with Chao (I'm so glad they have Chao now!).

On the side, I got the Roasted Roots (sweet potato, red potato, and carrot), and Pam got the Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Then we split each.

On the last Wednesday of each month, my office brings in a catered lunch for our weekly staff meetings. They always make sure we have vegan/vegetarian options since a couple of us are vegan (and a bunch are vegetarian). Last time, we had a salad bar with toppings from Midtown Crossing Grill. I made this big ole salad. The dinner rolls they brought were yeasty and amazing.

Breakfast one day last week was Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Waffles with homemade PB syrup. I made the syrup by mixing PB2 (the powdered peanut butter) with maple syrup. Vegan sausage on the side.

I'm trying to eat as much processed food as possible before embarking on a January reset eating plan! I had a Tofurky BBQ Chick'n Pizza in the freezer. Enjoyed a couple nights ago with extra BBQ sauce and salad.

And here's a yummy Saturday morning ramen bowl made with Annie Chun's Miso Udon, baked tofu, and canned veggies. Quick and easy!