Thursday, April 28, 2016

Stuff I Ate

Here's a rundown of some stuff I've been eating lately! Lots of randomness.

Check out this fluffy ass Chorizo, Potato, & Cheese Omelet I made using Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg, Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo (leftover from a taco night), hash browns, & Follow Your Heart Pepper Jack. I've been eating the hell out of some Vegan Egg lately. It's basically the best vegan invention of all time ever. I typically just scramble it, but for this, I left it alone in the hot skillet until it was fully cooked through, flipped it and cooked a bit longer, and then stuffed it.

Not all of my breakfasts have been so decadent lately. I've been having these Pear & Rhubarb Protein Smoothies after runs. I used this recipe on the Vega website, which includes instructions for stewing the rhubarb into a jam before adding it to the smoothie with pear, ginger, coconut-almond milk, and Vega One French Vanilla protein.

I'm also all about the FitQuick Protein Waffles! I ordered a couple flavors after becoming obsessed with the Rise & Resist podcast (co-host Holly Noll makes FitQuick). Each waffle has 22 grams of protein, and they're gluten-free. Lacy Davis, the other co-host, has talked on the show about topping her protein waffles with banana soft serve, so that's what I did this morning with this Birthday Cake Protein Waffle. Waffles and ice cream for breakfast? Yes please.

Here's a not-so-exciting-looking (but still really tasty) quick breakfast I had in our flat in Greenwood, Mississippi last week. I traveled there with a co-worker/friend for a travel feature she's working on, and I had this breakfast Friday morning in our cute little rented shack. It had a microwave, so I packed some instant Oat Revolution Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats and added a pack of Justin's Vanilla Almond Butter. Not pictured is the banana on the side. Enjoyed with some too-strong hotel coffee prepared by my friend Shara.

Today was Dining Out for Life day in Memphis. That's when restaurants across the city pledge to donate a portion of their proceeds to Friends for Life, an organization that helps low-income people living with HIV/AIDS access services. I'm on the board of directors at FFL, and I usually volunteer at the event. But I didn't have time today due to some work obligations. But I did stop by Pink Diva Cupcakery — my friend Cassi's all-vegan cafe and bakery — to grab some takeout since she was participating. I got a big ole to-go order of her Veggie Pasta with tempeh, kale, zucchini, carrots, and broccoli.

Cassi has a point system at Pink Diva, and for every five visits, you get a free cupcake. I've definitely been there more than five times, but somehow, I never knew about the cupcake thing. Today, she reminded me that I was due for my free one. And she had the most beautiful little Strawberry Shortcake cakes. This one was stuffed with fresh strawberry puree and topped with whipped topping. 

Speaking of strawberries, check out my first strawberry from my garden! I planted strawberries last year, but it was too late in the season, so I didn't get any berries last year. Luckily, they're perennials, so they come back every year. This year, there are TONS of green berries! And one of them turned red earlier this week. I immediately devoured it! Didn't even wash it off. And it was so juicy and delicious.

After we got home from our overnight stay in Mississippi last Friday, I had a hankering for some fried rice. So I went down to Shanghai Restaurant — my neighborhood Chinese joint — and ordered the Tofu Fried Rice. Good stuff. Just fried tofu, fried rice, and onions. It's way too much for one meal, but I ate it all anyway. No regrets.

It wouldn't be a Stuff I Ate post without a few meals from Imagine Vegan Cafe! I didn't make it to brunch last Sunday, but the Sunday before last, I brunched at Imagine. And I was craving something wholesome. So I ordered the Southern Staple — brown rice, black beans, collard greens, & garlic aioli. Served with cornbread.

Today, also for Dining Out for Life, I stopped by Imagine and had this Philly Cheesesteak with homemade white cheese, bell pepper, onions, and vegan roast beef. Broccoli with ranch dipping sauce on the side. My friend Pam just got hired on as a cook, and this was the first meal she cooked for me! It was perfect. 

I ordered the Philly because it's possible that the recipe may be changing up soon! Imagine is re-working its menu, and the new chef Don is looking to sub out homemade seitan in some of the sandwiches that currently utilize storebought plant meats. I was lucky to be part of a taste test panel last week sampling some of the possible new items. We tried Don's seitan in a BBQ Sandwich (top left) and on the Philly (bottom right). And we tried his seitan bacon and cashew cheese on the Bacon Cheeseburger (top right) and as queso dip (bottom left).

All of Don's tester items were amazing, and they may be coming to the menu soon! They're still doing taste tests and making tweaks, so I don't know when and what changes will be happening. But look for homemade seitan and cashew cheese at Imagine soon! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Juice Guru Review

I wish I could afford to juice daily, but it's just not in my budget. Juicing is expensive, especially when you're trying to buy high-quality, organic produce for your juices. But I've compromised by scheduling morning juices on my non-running days. Before I do yoga or strength-building workouts on Tuesdays and Fridays, I always whip a healthy, fresh juice in my Breville juicer. Nothing beats waking up to fresh, pure energy in a glass!

But I tend to fall into the same old ruts of kale-cucumber-apple-romaine juice. That's why I jumped at the chance to review Juice Guru by Steve & Julie Prussack. Steve and Julie's paperback juicing guide encourages daily juicing, and it certainly has more than enough recipes to mix things up for months on end without repeating the same juice from day to day. If you can afford that life, go for it! If not, just do what you can.

The 100 or so pages of Juice Guru are packed with information about the health benefits of juicing (anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, etc.), the nutrition in juices versus smoothies, and some myth-busting about juices containing no fiber (they do contain soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol).

There's even a section about juicing on a budget, and the authors make the claim that what you'll save in medical costs from eating an unhealthy diet makes up for what you'd spend on fruits and vegetables. That may be true for people with a history of medical problems who are just getting off the Standard American Diet, but as a long-time vegan with great health, I can't say that it's really true for me. But like I said, I'm juicing as often as is feasible for my budget. And I think that's okay.

The next couple hundred pages are filled with juice recipes for every ailment, health concern, or mood. There's a chapter on green juices, one on cleansing juices, one on root veggie juices, and another for superfood tonics and elixirs (that chapter contains a recipe for a Cold Cure juice with elderberry that I will definitely be trying next time I get the sniffles).

First, I tried the Carrot Kicker — a juice of carrots, beets, celery, and cayenne. The cayenne gave this super rooty juice a spicy kick that really got my blood circulating first thing in the morning.

I did notice something weird though. About 30 minutes after I drank this, I started to feel slightly nauseous. I googled and found that nausea from beet juice is a common thing. Most sites recommended simply cutting back the amount of beet juiced next time. So when I made this a couple days later, I used a half beet instead of a whole one, and I was just fine!

The next juice I tried was the Juice Guru Cleansing Juice. This carrot-apple-ginger juice is one of the Juice Guru template recipes designed for swapping out and changing up with a number of substitutions listed with the recipe. But I stuck with the original for this. Suggestions included adding fresh parsley, swapping the apples for pears, or using fresh turmeric root instead of ginger. This was probably my favorite juice that I tried from the book because carrot-apple-ginger is the best combo ever.

I couldn't review a juice cookbook without trying a green juice! So for the past week, on non-running days, I've been enjoying this Super Greens juice with kale, spinach, celery, green apple, and lemon. It's cool and refreshing and energizing. I love lemon and celery in sweet green juices!

When you're juicing, you end with a LOT of pulp. I typically just toss it, but sometimes, I do save carrot pulp for a raw vegan "tuna" salad. But that was about all I knew to do with it. Thankfully, Juice Guru also lists recipes for using up carrot pulp. One of those is Chef Babette's Carrot Mango Dressing. It's made with carrot pulp, fresh mango (I used soft champagne mango!), vegan mayo, apple cider vinegar, tamari, and turmeric.

This creamy dressing was amazing!! It reminded me of the carrot-ginger dressing I used to buy from the deli section of the grocery store. Plus, it has all the anti-inflammatory properties from turmeric, which is much-needed since my running routine often leads to me suffering from inflamed joints and sore muscles.  

I've bookmarked a ton of other juices to try. And I'd highly recommend this book if you're looking to add more juices to your life, even if, like me, you can't really do it daily. Something is better than nothing!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vegan Drinks at Trolley Stop Market!

Tonight was our monthly Vegan Drinks meetup! We typically stick to places that have a full bar because a few of our regulars prefer cocktails and wine over beer. But every once in awhile, we pick a place that only serves beer because it has great vegan options. Such was the case tonight at Trolley Stop Market.

Of course, Pam complained that she had to drink "apple juice" (that's what she calls hard cider) rather than her usual red wine. But she lived. And she got a delicious vegan burger out of the deal. Here's our group!

Trolley Stop has a fine selection of local craft beers on tap. I went with a High Cotton Red Ale.

Since they knew vegans were coming (I called ahead), the chef whipped up a vegan special — Fried Thai Chili Tempeh over Mixed Greens with Blueberries. I opt for tempeh any time I see it on a menu, and this sounded perfect. And it was! The tempeh was coated in sweet 'n' tangy chili sauce, and it paired wonderfully with the bitter greens and fresh, sweet berries. Melissa, Shay, and I all ordered this, and we were all very pleased with our choice!

Trolley Stop has a decent number of vegan options on the regular menu though. And they'll sub out Daiya cheese in any dish. Don and Kenzie ordered some Cheese Bread (with Daiya!) to share. This is my usual at Trolley Stop. I just LOVE cheesy bread! They also make great vegan personal and large-sized pizzas, but no one ordered one tonight. 

Cassi and Pam both went with the Garden Burger — a homemade, vegan black bean & veggie patty. Cassi had hers topped with mushrooms. It's been awhile since I've had the burger, but I snagged a bite of Pam's, and it was quite delicious. 

Jennifer went with the Garden Wrap, which was stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, rice, beans, avocado, and Daiya. She got their Sauteed Swiss Chard on the side. The restaurant's owners, Jill and Keith, are also farmers, and they serve locally grown produce in the restaurant.

Nathan ordered the TSM Nachos vegetarian-style with black beans instead of chicken or beef. He eats cheese though, so he ordered his with cheese. I told him I'd photograph it and include it in the post to show how inclusive our group is! We're a vegan meetup group, but we don't force anyone to order any certain way. Just the fact that non-vegans want to hang out with a bunch of vegans is pretty awesome! I've never tried, but I bet Trolley Stop could make this with Daiya if you ask nicely. They use locally made Las Delicias tortilla chips, which are basically the best chips ever, so I bet a vegan version of this would be pretty good.

Bert went with the Slammin' Veggie Hoagie, which has grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, avocado, and onions. And you can add Daiya cheese if you want! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Vegan Quorn Chik'n!

Most Quorn products are not vegan, but the U.K.-based mycoprotein plant meat company has been putting out more and more vegan options in recent years. They sent me their vegan Quorn Chik'n Tenders and Chik'n Cutlets to review!

Before we get started though, you might be wondering what mycoprotein is. It's a single-cell protein source that comes from fungus, and it's grown in large vats. So basically, it's science. And it's a great vegan protein option that's fairly low-cal, low-carb, and low-fat. If you're one who counts your macro intake, it's worth noting that the numbers on this stuff are pretty awesome. But the products do come with an allergen disclaimer — apparently, about 1 in 140,000 people have a serious allergic reaction to mycoprotein that can result in vomiting and nausea.

Thankfully, I'm not one of those people, because I LOVE the vegan Quorn products. The Chik'n Cutlets come four to a package, and they're unseasoned and frozen. Each one is about the size of a hand. For these, I wanted to experiment with a recipe from Quorn's website, so I scrolled through until I found this Quorn Caesar Salad.

The salad recipe isn't vegan on their site, but I made a few easy substitutions. For the egg yolk called for in the dressing, I used a 1/2 teaspoon of Vegg powder mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. The dressing also calls for parm, so I used the new Follow Your Heart vegan parm shreds. I also cut back the oil pretty significantly from 3/4th cup in the dressing to two tablespoons. I love oil, but 3/4th cup is way too much.

I pan-fried the cutlets and baked some bread cubes tossed with Miyoko's VeganButter and fresh garlic. Then I chopped the chik'n, tossed everything with dressing, and dinner was on the table. This truly tasted like the Caesar salads I loved as kid, and the unseasoned cutlets soaked up the dressing.

For the Chik'n Tenders, I wanted to develop my own recipe, so I came up with a simple and wholesome Quorn & Veggie Stir-fry.

The tenders are basically the same as the cutlets, but they're already chopped into bite-sized pieces. Again, they're unseasoned. But they easily soak up any sauce they're cooked in or tossed with. The sauce for this stir-fry was so flavorful, and it went right into the tenders.

Here's that recipe!

Quorn & Veggie Stir-fry
Yields 4 servings

1/4 cup water
1 onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups chopped broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups chopped cauliflower florets
1 cup chopped carrots
1 package frozen Quorn Chik'n Tenders
1 3/4 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice wine
1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
Brown rice or Quinoa for serving

Heat the 1/4th cup water in a large skillet and add the onions. Cook and stir for about 2-3 minutes or until onions are soft. Add the broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, and more water if needed. Continue to simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Add the Quorn tenders, and cook and stir for about eight minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more water as needed to keep the food from burning or sticking to the pan.

While the veggies and Quorn are cooking, whisk together the 1 3/4th cup water, soy sauce, rice wine, hoisin, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl. Spoon a small amount out into another small bowl and stir together with the cornstarch until its dissolved. Add the cornstarch mix to the bowl of sauce and whisk to combine.

Pour the sauce over the veggies and Quorn as they're cooking in the skillet. Allow the sauce to thicken, stirring occasionally. Depending on how high the heat is, this can take a few minutes. The end product will be saucy but thick. Serve over brown rice or quinoa.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Vegan Eats in Greenwood, Mississippi

Late last week, my colleague and friend Shara Clark asked me to accompany her on a work trip to Greenwood, Mississppi. Shara writes for Memphis Magazine, which is published by the same company that publishes the Memphis Flyer (the alt-weekly I write/edit for in my day job), and she was assigned a travel piece about Greenwood. It's about two hours south of Memphis, and it's best-known for its place on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Blues legend Robert Johnson (the musician who sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads) died in Greenwood, and he's buried there. The small Delta town is also where the movie The Help was filmed a few years back.

I had mixed feelings about promoting Mississippi at first, given that the state just passed a super homophobic law that allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. But just before our scheduled trip, the Greenwood City Council passed a resolution condemning the state law.
"... WHEREAS, the City of Greenwood does not sanction or tolerate discrimination against its citizens or visitors and seeks to preserve and protect the rights of all individuals and groups regardless of religion or identity
WHEREAS, the City of Greenwood is open for business and tourism, including commercial and residential development, to all law-abiding individuals and groups regardless of religion or identity ..."
That made me feel better! As a resident of another backward Southern state (Tennessee!), I know that just because a state legislature passes an awful law, it certainly doesn't mean its citizens support that law.

Anyway, there was also the issue of finding vegan food in Greenwood. I've learned that, no matter where I am in the country, I'll always find something to eat. There's always a Subway or a Taco Bell. But I was really hoping to uncover some hidden vegan treasures on Greenwood's restaurant menus. And after a bit of research, I did find some yummy things!

We headed to Greenwood on Thursday morning and arrived just in time for lunch at Delta Bistropub. At first glance, the menu doesn't seem to offer much, but there are veggie skewers and garlic fries. And there's always a Roasted and Fried Vegetable special of the day! I asked our server if the batter for the fried veggies was free of egg or dairy, and he said yes. A short bit later, this awesome plate of fried green tomatoes, fried green beans, roasted carrots, and roasted bell peppers arrived at the table.

The veggies are typically served with ranch for dipping, but they swapped out balsamic vinegar instead. I didn't use much of that though because they really didn't need any dip. I could tell the fried green beans were tempura-battered, which is often egg-free. But I was really surprised by the fried green tomatoes. So often, those are egg-battered, but I'm trusting these weren't since not only did I tell the server I didn't eat eggs or dairy, but also, Shara emailed the restaurant the day before to tell them she was bringing a vegan. And they went to the trouble to leave the ranch off my plate, so that's a good sign.

I considered also ordering the veggie skewers, but that seemed like a lot of veggies. So I went with Garlic Fries instead. I guess fries are technically veggies, but I think of them more as carbs. And carbs are good at keeping you full and satisfied for hours. These usually come with parm and shaved garlic, but I had them leave off the parm. These were pretty yummy!

We spotted a local craft beer on tap — the Mississippi Blues Trail Farmhouse Ale — so we ordered a round of those too. This was a light summery wheat-style beer.

For dinner, we hit up Lusco's, an 80-plus-year-old steakhouse with a legendary reputation. When Shara told me we were going to steakhouse, I figured I'd be eating a salad-and-fries dinner. But I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted this line on the menu: "We offer a vegetarian option for the Penne Rigate Pasta — tossed in our homemade pesto (no cheese added) or our homemade red sauce (no meat)."

Vegan pesto! That almost never happens! When we ordered, our server told me that they don't have the vegan pesto every night but that, if not, the red sauce would be an option. She checked with the kitchen, and I was in luck! They had the vegan pesto that night! If you're vegan and dining at Lusco's, I'd recommend calling ahead a day just to be sure they'll have the pesto. The lighting was very dim inside, so I had to tweak this picture to get it looking halfway decent, and it still isn't the best shot, but trust me when I tell you that this Vegan Pesto Pasta was delicious! It's served with a side salad.

The next day, Shara wanted to hit up Crystal Grill, another iconic Greenwood restaurant that's been around since the days of black-and-white photos and neon signs that advertise "air-conditioning." It's a super casual, retro diner, and as one would expect in such a place, it's seriously lacking in vegan options. They had a spaghetti and meatballs dish on the menu, and I thought maybe I could get that without meatballs. But our server informed me that the marinara also contained meat. So at Crystal Grill, I ended up with the old vegan standby of fries and salad. But at least they had Sweet Potato Fries! And the House Salad was pretty yummy and large with lots of green olives and pickles!

After lunch at Crystal Grill, we headed back to Memphis. Sure, I ate a lot of fries in Greenwood. But the highlight of the weekend was definitely the vegan pesto and fried veggies! One last thing — you simply CANNOT travel through Mississippi without picking up some boiled peanuts from a gas station. If you've never had a boiled peanut, they're a little like slow-cooked beans. Most stations have big crock pots of original and Cajun-spiced peanuts. I always get Cajun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Juice Bar Fun Run!

Juice Bar, a Cooper-Young area vegan juice and smoothie bar, held its first 5K fun run tonight! The organizers of the casual neighborhood run promised there would be free Memphis Made Brewing Co. beer and vegan snacks from Cosmic Coconut (Juice Bar's sister location). And that was enough for me to sign up!

I'd been planning to do the run for at least a month, so when the forecast called for rain this evening, I wasn't deterred. The run was going to be held rain or shine, and I actually love running in the rain. So after work, I scarfed down a veggie & hummus sandwich, donned my Mizuno rain jacket, took this awkward bathroom selfie, and headed out the door.

I was actually impressed at the turnout despite the heavy and steady downpour. Runners are dedicated, stubborn folks, and most of us happen to love beer. Especially free beer. This was an early crowd shot, but I'd guess that more than 100 people ended up coming out.

At the sign-up table, they were giving away samples of Beet Juice!

I showed up alone because my running buddy Misti is out of town, but I ended up running into a few friends there. We mingled a bit, and then we were off — running in the downpour through the residential streets of Cooper-Young. I'm a slow runner, so I fell toward the middle back of the pack and found my pace with my buddy Tristan from Lululemon. Our run took us three miles in a loop that circled back to Juice Bar.

When we went inside, there was a buffet of vegan snacks and a keg waiting for us! 

I was sooooooo happy to see they were serving samples of Cosmic's Buffalo Cauliflower Tempeh Wrap! I recently declared this wrap the very best dish in Memphis after I tried it at Cosmic Coconut's East Memphis location. It has spicy cauliflower, tempeh, and kale, and it's just so good!

And it's even better dipped in their homemade Cashew Ranch!

There were also samples of Cosmic Coconut's Kale Caesar Salad. Love this kale salad.

The sign said there was a hummus sample, but I must have run too slowly to get that one before it was all gone. Oh well! There were a few Coco-Nutties left! Coco-nutties are Cosmic Coconut's locally famous raw vegan coconut chocolate cookies. They're pretty much the best. There was a time when my former co-worker Hannah and I were somewhat obsessed with these!

After I loaded up on snacks (priorities!), I hit up the keg. I'm not even sure what type of beer this was, but I know it came from the local brewers at Memphis Made. It was a light, not-too-hoppy beer that was perfect for post-run!

There was a giveaway of juice gift cards and Asics running tees, and I won a running tee! It's bright pink, and it's just my size! But my clothes and shoes were soaked, so after the giveaway, I couldn't wait to get home and put on some dry clothes. I made a batch of post-run protein ice cream — frozen banana and chocolate protein powder — and now I'm off to bed. Goodnight!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April Goddess Provisions Box!

I subscribe to the Goddess Provisions box, a monthly grab-bag box of magical vegan awesomeness (from the same folks who bring you Vegan Cuts beauty and snack boxes), and every month, I share pics of that month's box. Most boxes are filled with at least one crystal, a perfume or essential oil blend, a vegan snack or tea, and sometimes a beauty product or two.

Here's what was in April's box! The theme this month was "Free Sprit."

There were Laughing Giraffe Organics Matcha Snakaroons, Good Medicine Beauty Lab perfume in "Free," a Pixie Mood faux leather and cork card holder, an amethyst cluster, and Eye of Horus liquid eyeliner.

The crystals are always my favorite part of the box, and this month's crystal was hands-down the best one in all of the boxes so far! I've been a subscriber since the company launched last October, and this is the largest, most beautiful crystal to be included in any box. This month, some subscribers got a fluorite wand and others got an amethyst cluster. I'm glad I got this lovely cluster for protection, peace, and tranquility!

The Pixie Mood card holder was so needed! I'm the world's worst at remembering to carry my business cards. Now I can carry them in style, and there are extra pockets for stashing other people's cards.

The Eye of Horus liquid liner was pretty exciting. I've been using e.l.f. liquid liner for a few years now, and I've gotten pretty good at applying liner with a brush. But this liquid is more of a fine-tipped marker. It's been an adjustment trying to figure out how to apply it correctly, but I'm getting the hang of it. 

I absolutely LOVE the "Free" perfume by Good Medicine. It has hints of vanilla, tobacco, rosewood, cinnamon, and ginger, and it really has that "free spirit" scent to it. 

The matcha coconut macaroons are raw, organic, and of course, vegan. They're made with a base of coconut flakes and cacao butter, and they're sweetened with agave nectar. I found out on Monday afternoon that they're pretty much perfect pre-run snacks. I popped two before an afternoon run, and they powered me through almost five miles. They have a strong coconut flavor with just a tiny hint of matcha.

Love these boxes so much! They're $33 a month, and you always get all full-sized items (no sample sizes in this box!). If you want to subscribe, use this link and I'll make a couple bucks (I'm a Goddess Provisions/Vegan Cuts ambassador). Also, Goddess Provisions has the BEST Instagram ever. I check it nightly because all the pics of crystals and unicorns and mandalas make me happy.