Monday, February 29, 2016

New So Delicious Coconut Yogurts!

It's about to real yogurt-y up in here. Or should I say, we're about to get cultured. Yea, that sounds smarter. Anyway, So Delicious sent me samples of their new yogurts to review, and another vegan yogurt company also sent me some review samples. So I'll tackle So Delicious this week — today and tomorrow — and, later this month, expect even more yogurt reviews and recipes!

So Delicious coconut yogurt has been around for years, but they have a new formula that's carrageenan-free and made with organic coconuts. Of course, they're still soy-free and gluten-free. Plus, there's adorable new packaging. Any time you add hearts to a design, it instantly becomes better.

In case you're not familiar, carrageenan is extracted from seaweed, and it's often used as a thickener in natural food products. But there's been some recent concern because some studies have linked it with GI issues and inflammation. As an ethical vegan, I'm not really one to worry much about stuff like that. But plenty of folks are vegan for health reasons, and it's good to make products that satisfies their needs too. These new yogurts do just that.

I'm a huge fan of yogurt parfaits, so I tried the vanilla one first in a parfait with chopped nectarine and hemp & greens granola (from the Whole Foods bulk bin). I couldn't tell much difference in taste in this new formula compared with the old formula, which I certainly have eaten my fair share of. There's a subtle hint of coconut, a creamy-ish texture (but a slight chunkiness), and just the right level of tartness. Like all sweetened vegan yogurts, the So Delicious ones are quite sweet. But I prefer that in a fruity yogurt. 

Next, I had the strawberry banana with fresh strawberries, bananas, and more hemp & greens granola. This one was my fave, probably because I just love banana. The strawberry and banana flavors outshone the coconut more than in the vanilla flavor. 

I decided to save myself from having to wash an extra bowl one morning with this raspberry yogurt, eaten straight from the carton. Since raspberries go great with chocolate, I topped this with cocoa-flavored coconut chips and carob chips. I believe the raspberry yogurt was the smoothest of the three. While the texture of the yogurts is creamy, you can see a little separation, probably because of the coconut fat. But I didn't notice that as much with this one.

The strawberry was excellent! Sweet, tart, berry-ful, and it had little bits of berry chunks mixed in. I enjoyed it with fresh berries and a package of Cocoa Coconut Larabar Renola Fruit, Nut, & Seed Mix (almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut).

Even though I'm not terribly concerned about consuming carrageenan, I'm glad So Delicious omitted that ingredient from their yogurts. As a vegan, I know how happy it makes me when a non-vegan company takes animal by-products out of their products (remember when that happened with Skittles?! That was the best!). So I can imagine it's super-awesome when a company removes ingredients that you can't eat for health reasons. 

So Delicious also sent me two of their unsweetened yogurts to try, but I'll be reviewing those tomorrow. And posting recipes!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Kite Hill's Vegan Cheesecake is AMAZING

I know I've told y'all before, but I have a little food hoarding problem. I like to buy things I don't need, stock them in the pantry, fridge, or freezer, and just look at them for a couple weeks before I open them. I take great joy in dreaming about when I'll finally eat them and how awesome it's gonna be. And then, I wait for JUST THE RIGHT TIME. When I do finally eat that chocolate bar or raw food tart or frozen vegan pizza, it tastes so much better because I've spent all that time anticipating eating it.

Yea, I know it sounds batshit crazy, especially when I type it all out. But whatever. That's exactly what happened with this Kite Hill Ricotta Cheesecake.

I've had this cheesecake since November. But I just ate it today. Let me explain: So my mama and I picked up a couple of these at Whole Foods on Black Friday. We stopped there after we did our holiday sale shopping, and Whole Foods had just gotten these cute little single-serving vegan cheesecakes in. They were frozen, so when I got it home, I just popped it in the freezer.

Well, December happened, and cookies and candies and holiday treats were everywhere. And I figured I'd rather save my cheesecake for a time when I wasn't bombarded with treats. And then January happened, and I did that month-long, no-sugar cleanse. So cheesecake was obviously out of the question then. After my cleanse, I was all doughnuts and ice cream and cupcakes. And here we are at the end of February, and I just ate this cheesecake. But you know what? It was soooooo worth the wait.

This is THE BEST VEGAN CHEESECAKE I've ever had. It's made with Kite Hill's almond ricotta, and it has a very authentic cheesecake flavor. Despite the fact that I do enjoy cheesecakes made with Tofutti or Daiya cream cheese, the flavor just isn't quite the same as a dairy cheesecake. But this little cake was just perfect. And it was just the right size. Like a cheesecake in a cupcake size.

I was prepared to eat it plain, because I do love unadorned cheesecake. But at the last minute, right before I was about to load the first delicious bite into my mouth, I got a hankering for a strawberry topping. I had some frozen strawberries, so I added three to a small saucepan with about two teaspoons of sugar and a 1/4 cup water. I cooked them down to thaw and smooshed them up with a fork. And then I whisked in about a teaspoon of cornstarch to thicken.

I served the warm strawberry topping over my cool cheesecake. Mmmmmmmm.

Totally worth the three-month wait! Now I need to head back to Whole Foods (Kite Hill is making these exclusively for Whole Foods) and stock up on another, so I can save  it to eat in, say, May. ;-)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vegan Steak & Tater Salad

Who else is super excited about Terry Hope Romero's new book, Protein Ninja? I know I am! I don't own it yet though. But the recent buzz about her new vegan protein book inspired me to pull Protein Ninja's prequel — Salad Samurai — down from the cookbook shelf this week. One of my post-January cleanse goals was to work more salad into my life.

And I have to admit that, since the cleanse has ended, I've been doing a lot of junk food-binging and not a lot of salad-eating. It's time to fix that! Salad Samurai is loaded with hearty dinner salads, and it's organized by season. We're still in the throes of stupid winter, and the one thing that gets me through these cold, cold nights is seasonal produce. As much as I hate the cold, I do admit that I love the cold weather foods — sweet potatoes, hard squash, turnips, kale, etc. Terry's winter salad section has plenty of salads using those hearty veggies.

I picked the Seitan Steak Salad with Green Peppercorn Dressing for three reasons — seitan, sweet potatoes, and cashew ranch.

Homemade steamed seitan is sliced, marinated, and grilled (I used my indoor grill). The sweet potatoes are boiled until just tender and then they're grilled as well. There are tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and romaine. 

But the thing that really tied it together (to steal a phrase from The Dude) was the green peppercorn dressing. Soaked cashews (okay, I didn't actually soak them because I have a Vitamix) are blended with spices, herbs, and green peppercorns in brine. This my first exposure to brine-packed peppercorns, and I was blown away. They're a bit like capers but spicier. And they add a twangy-spicy punch to this creamy nut-based ranch. 

I'm definitely gonna try to make many more salads from Salad Samurai soon! And I hope to get Protein Ninja soon too!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mystic Crystal Revelations!

I know most of my readers come here for food, not airy-fairy crystal hippie stuff. But I'm so excited about my Goddess Provisions Gem Show Box! And I want to share its contents with y'all. As you may know, I subscribe to the monthly Goddess Provisions box, a monthly goodie bag of crystals, candles, vegan makeup, chocolate, teas, bath stuff, and other fun, cruelty-free things to help you embrace your inner goddess. I always post an unpacking of that monthly box (you can find my February box post here).

But this month, Goddess Provisions offered its first limited edition, one-time-only box, and I just had to order that too! The company's founders Jill and John (the same folks who run Vegan Cuts) brought a ton of beautiful crystals back from the Tuscon Gem & Mineral Show, and they offered subscribers a chance to sign up for a box of random crystals. You didn't get to choose what you got, which made it more fun. I figured whatever crystals I needed would just be cosmically directed to end up at my house! My box arrived on Monday (the night of the full moon!). Here's what I got.

My very favorite piece is this big ole chunk of stilbite. It's from the zeolite silicate family, and it's associated with the heart and crown chakras. It's best used for reaching higher consciousness, feeling spiritual vibration, and practicing universal love. This baby has such amazing energy!

I'm also in love with this labradorite! I got my first piece of labradorite in a Goddess Provisions box a few months ago, but this hunk has more shiny, iridescent detail. Labradorite is associated with the crown and third eye chakras, and it's used for transformation, intuition, and strength. It can also help boost self-confidence and reduce anxiety.

I'm super-busy at work this week, working on a tight deadline for a story, and this lepidolite couldn't have come into my life at a better time. This sparkly, rough stone bring calming energy. It's also a great crystal for boosting love and friendship. It helps with awareness, transition, and balance (so needed this week!), and it goes with the crown, third eye, throat, and heart chakras.

Finally, there was a ton of quartz crystal in my box! I have quartz all over the house, practically in every room. But a girl can never have too much quartz. It's an amazingly useful stone. It amplifies and enhances the energy of other crystals, and it's got super healing and protective powers.

Goddess Provisions sold out of the limited gem show boxes really quickly, so I was lucky to get one! If you want to know more about the company and the monthly subscription boxes, check 'em out here. Okay, I promise to come back tomorrow with foods pics! Now I'm off to see the Dropkick Murphys at the New Daisy!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Vegan Drinks at R.P. Tracks

Our Memphis Vegan Drinks group had our monthly meetup at R.P. Tracks tonight. It's a fun little college bar on the University of Memphis campus, and they have lots of vegan (and veganizable) options. We've had our Drinks meetups there before (and I've probably even blogged about us meeting there), but I didn't have anything else planned to post tonight. So here's a recap!

Here's the table. We had a nice crowd tonight, and we got a surprise visit from the owners of Imagine Vegan Cafe (Adam and Kristie) and all their kids! They don't get out much because running a restaurant and raising four kids doesn't leave them much free time.

I started with a Memphis Made Fireside — a full-bodied amber ale. Later in the evening, I ordered my very favorite local craft beer, the High Cotton Scottish Ale.

Most people stuck with beer, but Pam ordered something called a Urine Sample. No kidding. She didn't know what liquor was in it, but the yellow stuff was pineapple juice.

Kristie got a Wedding Cake Martini. 

And Vaughan and Nicole ordered some cocktails too — a Dirty Martini for Vaughan and a Rum & Coke for Nicole.

R.P. Tracks is famous for their BBQ Tofu Nachos (fried tofu coated in BBQ sauce, black beans, salsa, lettuce, black olives, and seasoned tortilla chips), and since it was Jennifer's first visit to Tracks, she had to try them.

Pro tip: Always order these with the chips on the side. It keeps them from getting mushy and makes it easier to pack some for leftovers because the portion is huge.

A bunch of folks got nachos because they're hard to resist, but I'd ordered these the past three or four times I'd visited Tracks. So I mixed things up with the Vegetarian Tofu Club — marinated tofu, vegan tomato aioli, hickory coconut bacon. It normally comes on honey-wheat bread, but that's not vegan (because honey), so I sub out their focaccia bread instead. No idea why they serve vegan aioli on non-vegan bread. But the sandwich is probably better on focaccia anyway. Sweet potato fries on the side!

Melissa got the BBQ Tofu Burrito — same toppings as the nachos but stuffed inside a spinach wrap. YUM!

A few folks ordered the Buffalo Tofu Wings. I was always afraid these weren't vegan before because some wing sauce contains butter, but tonight, we got for-sure confirmation that they are vegan! So I'll be trying these next time. The ranch pictured here isn't vegan though (Vaughan eats dairy sometimes, so he didn't mind).

Pam got another of my go-to faves — the BBQ Tofu Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries. It normally comes with slaw, but the slaw isn't vegan. But the tofu is so good that it doesn't need a slaw to be delicious on a bun.

Finally, Steven made a pretty genius order — Waffle Fries with Chipotle Hummus for dipping. The hummus usually comes with pita, and that's delicious too. But fries are better than pita. 

It was a fun night! And now I'm stuffed!

Monday, February 22, 2016

More Stuff I Ate

I'm back with some more random pics of stuff I ate over the past week or so. On February 1st, the new downtown location of LYFE Kitchen opened, and my co-worker Susan and I were there for opening night dinner. But the official grand opening/media celebration didn't happen until last Thursday. Of course we were there for that too! The downtown is LYFE is dangerously close to my office, and the media event had free food and wine!

They had these little Vegan Beef Tip-Stuffed Cucumbers! These were stuffed with the filling from their lettuce wraps — Gardein beefless tips, wheat berries, and spices.

And there were samples of their Quinoa Crunch Bowl in little cups. This had quinoa, edamame hummus, avocado, tomato, broccoli, and hot sauce. So good!

My fave thing was the Chocolate Bundino! This is a coconut-based vegan chocolate mousse served in a pomegranate-chia sauce with toasted almonds. They have this on the menu at their East Memphis location (which I've visited many times), but I've never ordered it because I'm always too full for dessert. I have a feeling I'll be hitting up the downtown LYFE for this often, when my mid-afternoon sugar cravings kick in and I need a break from staring at my computer. It's a super-healthy dessert!

A few weeks ago, my friend Stephanie sent me a link for a free burrito coupon from Chipotle. I downloaded it, and so did Stephanie and Pam. On Friday night, we met up for burritos there! I got a Tofu Sofritas Burrito with black beans, guacamole, fajitas veggies, corn salsa, hot red tomatillo sauce, and lettuce. 

The Chipotle is way out in East Memphis, not far from the city's only Ben & Jerry's scoop shop. We'd been dying to try the new B&J's vegan ice cream. And I called ahead to make sure they had it. They didn't have it in bulk for scoops yet, but they did have the pints for sale! So we picked out a couple pints, grabbed some plastic spoons and a table, and dug in. I went with P.B. & Cookies — vanilla almond milk ice cream with chocolate sandwich cookie bits and peanut butter swirl.

OH MY GAWD. I seriously cannot get enough of this. I didn't really expect this to be better than my fave So Delicious Cashew Milk ice cream, but I do believe Ben & Jerry's has them beat on this. It's ridiculously creamy. I seriously doubt someone in a blind taste-test could tell the difference between this and dairy ice cream. Oh, and that peanut butter swirl!! It's salty and sweet. Can't stop, won't stop. The price is a little steep — $7 with tax! — but it's so good, I'd pay that again and again. Here's another scoop the next day at home. I think I've eaten some every day since Friday. It's pretty much gone now.

On Sunday morning, we went to brunch at Imagine Vegan Cafe as usual. I'd imbibed a bit too much the night before at Raiford's — a downtown disco — so I needed grease. I ordered the Memphis Slam (biscuits, gravy, tofu scramble, sausage, vegan cheese) and a side of hash browns (which comes with two fried patties). I plopped one of the hash browns right on top of my Memphis Slam, and it was heavenly. EXACTLY what I needed.

Tonight, I had a Field Roast Hand-Formed Burger with Parmela Creamery Chipotle Nut Cheese, tomato, lettuce, red onion, pickle relish, & sriracha mustard. I love these Field Roast burgers so very much!

That's it! We're all caught up now on random meals!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Stuff I Ate

It's been over a month since I've done one of these random meals posts. It's likely because most of my posts lately have been devoted to some sort of cleanse or another (the Abundance Diet, the Taco Cleanse). But I've been collecting random meal pics throughout the month of February, and since I have quite a few, I'll be posting some tonight and some more tomorrow.

The second restaurant meal I ate after my 28-day Abundance Diet was over at the beginning was February came from Pink Diva Cupcakery (the first was from LYFE Kitchen, but I already blogged about that). Cassi had added ramen back to her lunch menu in January, and I hadn't had a chance to order it yet. So I had this big ole bowl of Tofu & Veggie Ramen with hoisin tofu, zucchini, carrots, kale, sprouts, and jalapenos. Totally hit the spot!

I try to eat at Pink Diva once a week (either for lunch or for cupcake treats), and last Wednesday, I met my friend Audrey there over the lunch hour. I ordered Cassi's special of the week — Tomato Soup with Vegan Grilled Cheese. The creamy, homemade tomato soup is perfect for dipping a buttery grilled cheese in.

We also split an order of Pink Diva's Avocado Wontons. These are stuffed with mashed avocado and sundried tomatoes before they're deep-fried. They're served with a sour cream dip.

Speaking of lunch meetups with friends, I also had a long overdue lunch date with my friend Leslie. She's been super busy with grad school for the past couple years, and we don't get to hang out that often. But we caught up over Indian buffet at Golden India. They didn't have many vegan selections on the buffet, but there were Samosas, which I covered with Chana Masala and Tamarind Sauce, and there was some yummy Aloo Gobi.

One night a couple weekends ago, I went home to Arkansas to visit my parents. My mama had posted on Facebook a few days before about a breakfast casserole she'd made, and I wanted her to veganize it for me. So we had breakfast for dinner! Here's the Vegan Breakfast Casserole, made with biscuits, gravy, scrambled Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg, and Daiya cheese.

She made some other breakfast foods for us to eat with the casserole. Here's my plate — casserole, hash browns, vegan sausage & biscuit (with jelly!), and vegan bacon. 

I've been running a lot too. Tomorrow, I'm starting my 21K training program so that I can hopefully run the Great American River Run half-marathon in downtown Memphis this May. But for the past few weeks, I've been working on shorter speed runs to try and pick up the pace a little. One day, after a run last week, I came up with this creamy Peach Cobbler Smoothie — frozen peaches, banana, almond milk, almond butter, cinnamon, rolled oats, and Manitoba Harvest vanilla hemp protein.

Check back tomorrow for more random meals!!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Chuao Chocolate!

Right around the holidays, Chuao Chocolatier sent me some of their vegan chocolate bars to review. But I was deep in cashew brittle, cupcakes, and other holiday treats, and I didn't get around to trying them before I had to start my 28-day white sugar-free Abundance Diet in January. During my cleanse, every time I opened my pantry, these bars stared out at me, screaming "Eat me! I'm filled with antioxidants! I'm practically health food!"

But my willpower is strong. I resisted until February 2nd, when I immediately tore into a couple bars and savored every sweet, cocoa-rich bite. Chuao (pronounced "chew-wow") makes both vegan and non-vegan chocolate, but they only sent me their vegan dark chocolate flavors. Each bar is loaded with premium dark chocolate (60% cacao) and flecked with fun add-ins. And since Chuao is on the Food Empowerment Project's approved chocolate list, this is chocolate you can enjoy with a clear conscience knowing that no human rights were violated in the making of this chocolate (for more on child slavery in the chocolate industry, check this out).

There's Ooh Ahh Almond, Spicy Maya, Triple Nut Temptation, and Peace, Love, & Peppermint.

The Ooh Ahh Almond is probably my fave of the bunch! Crunchy, whole almonds are kettle-cooked in sugar and sea salt and surrounded by sweet dark chocolate. I've always been a fan of the salty-sweet combo, and I love the crunch from the almonds.

If you love Mexican hot chocolate, the Spicy Maya is for you! I'm a little obsessed with the chocolate-cinnamon-cayenne combo right now, and I can't get enough of those spices in my hot cocoa at night. This bar is like eating my fave hot cocoa. Cinnamon, pasilla chile, and cayenne are embedded in dark chocolate. But it's not too spicy. There's just the tiniest little kick.

Triple Nut Temptation is LOADED with nuts! In fact, I learned today that it makes a pretty awesome tide-you-over-til-lunch snack when you've had an early breakfast. I had an 8 a.m. meeting this morning, so I ate breakfast very early (for me, anyway). I was starving again by 10:30, but a few squares of this bar satisfied me for a bit. Roasted hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios are surrounded by dark chocolate!

Sadly, the Peace, Love, & Peppermint is a seasonal flavor, so you can't get it now. I should have gotten this post up before the holidays because, man, it is delicious! It's all flecked with candy cane bits!

Other vegan flavors by Chuao include the Orange A-Go-Go (with candied orange and bergamot) and Salted Chocolate Crunch (with breadcrumbs and sea salt). They have a ton of other interesting flavors that aren't vegan (but that I wish were), like Strawberry Waffle Wild, Potato Chip, and Cinnamon Cereal Smooch.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

February Goddess Provisions Box Unpacking!

Back in the fall, I signed up for the monthly vegan subscription box by Goddess Provisions (a spin-off company from the folks who also run Vegan Cuts). It's a surprise goodie box filled with crystals, candles, vegan chocolates, teas, beauty products, and more. Everything you need for embracing your inner goddess! Since I started receiving the box (I've been a subscriber since the first box!), I've been devoting a monthly blog post to featuring the items inside.

My February box arrived yesterday, and it's appropriately themed around the idea of self-love and the heart chakra. Here's what was inside.

There's the Dive In Deck (which features cards with questions or statements designed to make you ponder your life and your dreams), Chocolita Strawberry Passion raw dark chocolate, a set of crystals by Energy Muse that promote self-love, a bracelet by Mud Love, and a heart chakra candle by In Light and Love.

Perhaps the most interesting item was the Dive In Deck. The idea is you draw a card, read the question, and spend a little time meditating on the answer. Today, I drew "What Does Freedom Feel Like?" And my first thought was "no responsibilities, no bills, no rules, and an open schedule." Yea, that would be awesome. Sure, it's impossible, but it's fine (and even healthy) to imagine a world with complete freedom. 

I'm really into crystals, and every Goddess Provisions box comes with at least one. But this one came with three! There's rose quartz (for unconditional love), rhodonite (for compassion), and aventurine (for opening the heart). I'd been wanting rhodonite (the one with the black and pink specks) for my collection for some time, so that's definitely my fave of the three. 

The candle came with a tiny piece of chalk, and you're supposed to write your intention on the candle as it burns. I went with the box theme — self-love — last night, as I burned this lavender, vanilla, pink magnolia blossom, and coconut candle. I actually burned this while coloring a rhodonite crystal mandala in my new Chakra Crystals adult coloring book (because I'm that much of a cliche).

The Grace bracelet by Mud Love is probably my favorite item in the box this month! The charm is made from clay, and the word "grace" is just the reminder I need to practice goodwill and courteousness. Part of cultivating self-love involves showing love to others. By the way, the other bracelets on my hand (except for my FitBit) were procured through past Goddess boxes or Vegan Cuts boxes.

Most months, the boxes contain a chocolate treat or snack bar (or sometimes coffee or tea), just something consumable. The very first Goddess box last fall had a Chocolita raw white chocolate bar, and I absolutely loved it! So I was very excited to try Chocolita's strawberry dark chocolate. I had half of it at work today, and it made the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. The strawberries added a tangy sweetness to the bitter dark chocolate.

The Goddess Provisions boxes are shipped monthly, and I'm always so eager to see what will be inside! Can't wait until March! Sometimes, they also do extra special edition boxes. Like, this month, they put together a limited amount of boxes filled with nothing but crystals from the Tuscan Gem & Mineral Show.  Those boxes are sold out, but I got in on the action before they were all gone. I can't wait for my crystal box! I'll share its contents here when it arrives.

If you're interested in subscribing to the monthly Goddess Provisions box, use this link. I'm an ambassador, so I make a couple bucks from each sale using my link.