Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hilary's Eat Well Review

Lately, it seems like I've been living mostly off convenience foods. It's not that I've been super busy. I've just been super lazy, and I always tend to get that way as the holidays approach. It's probably because I know that the crazy gift-buying, wrapping, crafting, party time is coming up, and I'm conserving energy. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Anyway, living off convenience foods is fine when they're on the healthier side. Hilary's Eat Well sent me some coupons to try a few products, and these were packaged foods I could feel good about. I went with the Black Rice Burgers and the Broccoli Casserole Bites.

Hilary's Eat Well makes several varieties of veggie burger, and I'd tried a few in the past. But the Black Rice Burgers were new to me.

They're made with a base of millet, adzuki beans, jasmine rice, and that namesake forbidden rice (otherwise known as black rice). They also contain a ton of awesome veggies — sweet potato, arugula, beet greens, chard, collards, dandelion, kale, parsley, and turnip greens. So many greens! The texture is more on the squishy side, but I like that in a veggie burger that's actually made from veggies. That said, I prefer my more protein-packed burgers to be meatier. 

This burger is definitely not a protein patty though. It only comes in at 4 grams per patty, but sometimes, a girl needs her veggies. And this is a great way to get them! Other burgers include Hemp & Greens, Adzuki, and Root Veggie.

Hilary's also makes fun finger-food bites, like these Broccoli Casserole Bites.

These are made with millet, broccoli, white beans, carrot, and onion. They really do taste like the homestyle broccoli casserole I grew up with, but they're probably much lower in fat. I love that these are naturally vegan! I had mine with vegan ranch for dipping, and they were just perfect as a fun, easy entree (with a salad on the side). These would also be perfect for party snacks!

Hilary's also makes Spicy Mesquite Bites and Mediterranean Bites, and I look forward to trying those. They make salad dressings, but I've yet to find them in stores here. They've also released a new line of veggie sausages, so I hope to find those soon. If I do, expect another review!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Imagine Vegan Cafe's New Location! The Bianca Ice Cream Sundae!

Imagine Vegan Cafe — my favorite vegan restaurant/home away from home — has moved into fancy new digs. The new restaurant is at 2158 Young Avenue, just a few blocks down from the last location and right next door to their original location.

The last place was located inside an old house, and it was charming and comfy. But they simply outgrew that space. That's a great problem for a vegan restaurant to have! The new place is roomier, and they've hired carpenters to create brand new wooden furniture. Here's a quick tour.

There's a new built-in dessert counter, which will soon be stocked with Stephanie's amazing pies and cheesecakes.

Handmade, wooden tables line the walls on both sides.

The soft opening was on Thanksgiving, and I missed that since I was out of town. But my friends and I went to brunch there this past Sunday.

Not only have they added new furniture, but there are several new menu items and — most importantly — a VEGAN SOFT SERVE MACHINE. OMG. In the down time as they were preparing for the move, Imagine crowd-funded to purchase the ice cream machine. It's the first vegan soft serve in Memphis!

And even better, they actually named a soft serve dessert after me! I've been a devoted customer since day one, and I eat there just about every week. I am so honored and thrilled to present to you The Bianca — an Oreo-stuffed peanut butter brownie topped with soft serve, chocolate syrup, and nuts.

It's so amazing! The brownie is all warm, and the ice cream is so cold. When Kristie asked me what I would want on a Bianca-themed dessert, I said "peanut butter and chocolate and Oreos." YES! My friends wanted to help me eat it, so I let them have bites. But I made it clear that I was finishing most of this baby on my own.

Additionally, they've updated the menu with a few new items, including this BBQ Salad. That's what I ordered on Sunday. It's BBQ seitan over fresh greens, broccoli, tomato, and baby carrots with your choice of dressing. Of course I chose ranch!

Other new items include pizza by the slice (!!!!!), the steakhouse burger (two patties with veggie bacon, bbq sauce, and onion rings — all piled onto the burger), a vegan grilled cheese, and a BBQ wrap. They've also brought back some long-defunct menu items, like spaghetti and smoked sausage.

Monday, November 28, 2016

12 Years Vegan!

On Black Friday, I celebrated 12 years vegan and 22 years vegetarian! I went vegetarian on the day after Thanksgiving (after a six-month experiment being a semi-vegetarian and consuming chicken and fish) back in 1994, and I went all the way vegan on Black Friday in 2004. Even though that date changes year to year, I choose to celebrate on the day after Thanksgiving because it's just easier to remember.

Both diet/lifestyle changes were solely motivated by my concern for animal rights. When I went vegetarian, I was 14 years old and hell-bent on changing the world. My friend Purvi, who emigrated to the U.S. from India, was vegetarian, and she made it look easy enough. And even though I grew up in a small Arkansas town, eating vegetarian was fairly easy. But then again, I did eat a ton of cheese pizza and mac and cheese. By 2004, at age 24, I'd gotten more active in the animal rights movement, and I'd made an awesome vegan friend named Jil (she later moved to New York, but I miss her!). 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. And I've never looked back! Greatest decision I've ever made.

I always start my veganaversary with a leftover slice of Thanksgiving pie for breakfast! This year, that was a slice of my mama's Upside Down Apple Pecan Pie with CocoWhip.

My mama and I do some late-day Black Friday shopping (no waiting in line at 5 a.m. for us!), so we meet first for brunch at Brother Juniper's. Just about every year, I celebrate my veganaversary with their Fahim's Special Tofu Scramble, Home Fries, and Homemade Multigrain Toast with Jam. 

Pro tip: Fahim's Special (a scramble made with tofu, portabellas, and roasted red peppers) is no longer on the menu, but they can make it by special request. They removed it from the menu because it used to be served with kalamata olives, and they weren't selling enough of the dish, so they took it off the menu so they could stop carrying the olives. It's weird since olives keep for a long time, but whatever. My mama and I bring our own jar of kalamata olives and add them ourselves (BYOO, am I right?).

Then we spend the afternoon seeking out Black Friday deals in clothing shops. This year, we found lots at H&M and some things at American Eagle (I love their jeans because they make them to fit short people).

After our shopping excursion, my mama headed back to Arkansas, and I went home to heat up a big ole plate of Thanksgiving Leftovers. For me, the leftovers are more exciting than the actual Thanksgiving meal! I've been eating plates like this all weekend and just finished everything up tonight. I'm glad to get back to normal, healthier eating, but I'm sad that it's all gone.

Happy veganaversary to me!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving Recap!

So yea, I totally failed to post my Thanksgiving feast on the day of. Sorry! I got home from my parents' house around 6 p.m., but I felt compelled to put up my holiday tree and do my decorating. So that happened in lieu of blogging. But I'm here now with a delicious Thanksgiving recap.

I drove to my parents' house in Jonesboro, Arkansas on Wednesday after work. It's only an hour away from Memphis, so I got there just in time to grab some dinner. My mama and I wanted to eat something light since we knew we'd be pigging out on Thursday, so we stopped by the Truck Patch, Jonesboro's health food store, and hit the salad bar. I always go crazy on a pay-by-the-pound salad bar and wound up with a massive $11 salad. Oops. It was so good though — fried tofu, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, almonds, sunflower seeds, black beans, garbanzos, corn, peas, and so much more.

My dad made us some bloody marys after dinner, and I retired early since I needed to get up way early for a run. My marathon is next weekend, and I had a 5-mile training run scheduled for Thursday morning. Luckily, my runner friend Misti (who lives just outside Memphis) was back home in Jonesboro for the holiday too. I've known Misti since college when we both went to Arkansas State in Jonesboro, and we both moved to Memphis around the same time. So we go back at least 15 or 16 years. Anyway, her sister knew a group of 30 or so runners who do 10 miles every year on Thanksgiving. We joined up with them, but we only did 6 miles since I'm tapering (and I was only scheduled for 5). Misti wanted to go that extra mile since she's also in training for a half.

After our run, I went back to my parents' house to shower and have a small breakfast. The night before, at the Truck Patch, I picked up this Vanilla Spice Protein Coconut-milk by REBBL Herbs. So good! Definitely my new fave protein milk. I wish I could buy this in Memphis.

We also picked up some Ozery Bakery Cranberry Orange Morning Rounds and a small tub of Go Veggie Vegan Cream Cheese at the health food store. Perfect pre-Thanksgiving lunch, post-run breakfast snack.

We usually have our big meal for lunch rather than dinner. So around 1 p.m., we dug into a massive feast prepared by my mama. She makes everything vegan! Except they do have a turkey for them. I always bring some kind of vegan roast for me. This year, I got the Trader Joe's Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast with Gravy, which is actually made by Gardein. It was excellent!

Mama makes the BEST Cornbread Dressin' in the world. Seriously. This is the highlight of Thanksgiving.

Her Hash Brown Casserole is the second best thing about Thanksgiving. Love this stuff. Shredded potatoes, Daiya cheddar, Tofutti sour cream, onions, lots of Earth Balance, and cornflake topping.

She tried a new recipe for Broccoli & Rice Casserole this year, and it was really yummy. This had creamed corn inside and panko crumbs on top.

Mama's Green Beans are amazing. She slow-cooks them for hours and adds olive oil and Liquid Smoke and a little sugar.

She was disappointed in her Dinner Rolls this year. She tried a new recipe and felt like they were too dense. But my daddy and I loved them. They were more like biscuits, but who doesn't love a biscuit?

She also tried a new recipe for the Cranberry Sauce, but this one was a definite winner. It had orange peel and orange marmalade, so it was tart and citrusy and sweet. 

And she used my recipe for Poppyseed Coleslaw from Cookin' Crunk for our salad!

Some years, I get in the kitchen and help out by making a dish of my own. This year, I made Cauliflower Stuffing using this recipe. A coworker had sent me this recipe, and it sounded really good. Just cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, Earth Balance, herbs, and a little veggie broth. We all loved it (but my mushroom-hating dad said it would have been better without the mushrooms).

Here's my plate! So much goodness. Photographed outside for better light. Eaten inside because it's cold out there!

After dinner, it was pie time! My mama made an Upside Down Apple Pecan Pie this year. The pecan topping actually goes on the bottom of the pie pan, and then the pie is flipped out after baking and cooling. So pretty and really delicious.

After dinner, we took an ussie in front of the holiday tree. Sadly, my Granny had a cold and couldn't make it, so it was just my mom, dad, me, and Me-Maw.

And then my dad got this picture of the ladies!

Good times! Great food! It's hard to believe Thanksgiving has come and gone. It's really one of my favorite holidays since eating is pretty much the most enjoyable activity I can think of. Hope y'all had a great one too!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Healthee USA Rice Bowls

I pretty much exclusively eat brown rice when I'm at home and save the white stuff for a special treat, like when I'm dining out at a Vietnamese restaurant or eating sushi. But let's be honest — brown rice takes FOREVER to cook. Since I'm a planner, I usually always prepare my brown rice the night before I need it, but sometimes, even my crazy, highly organized Type A self fails to get that done ahead of time.

And that's when little microwave bowls of brown rice come in handy. Healthee USA sent me a few of their microwave brown rice bowls to review. Y'all know I love some convenience food, but it's best when it doesn't sacrifice nutrition for ease of preparation. And this stuff is brown rice with all the good stuff still inside.

There are three bowls — Organic Turmeric Brown Rice, Organic Fried-Style Brown Rice, and Organic Coconut Brown Rice.

I have to say that I was most intrigued by the coconut rice because coconut! I tried that one first. Here's what you see when you open the cardboard packaging.

Each bowl makes two servings of rice. To prepare, you simply peel back the plastic just a little and microwave for 90 seconds. But my microwave is a little crappy so my rice took more like 2 minutes.

I made a quick stir-fry with some Tofurky Thai Basil vegan chicken strips, cauliflower, squash, and carrots and served it over the Organic Coconut Brown Rice. The rice had a lovely, light coconut flavor that was unlike any rice I've ever had. The texture of the rice was fluffy and fresh, just as if I'd cooked it from scratch. The kernels do stick together a little, but a little smashing with a fork fixed that. Definitely my favorite bowl of the bunch.

The Organic Turmeric Brown Rice made a nice base for a quick lentil stew. The turmeric didn't really give the rice any special flavor, but the color is gorgeous.

For the Organic Fried-Style Brown Rice, I sauteed a little baked tofu, some scrambled Vegan Egg, and a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies. I added the cooked rice at the very end and mixed it all up with a little Bragg's. The texture was very much like restaurant-style fried rice but minus all the grease.

These bowls are awesome! And I'll be looking for more in stores. These would be great to have on hand when there's just no time to make fresh brown rice.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!! I should be posting an update of my big meal later on Thursday evening, but if I don't get to it, you'll see pics by Sunday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Roasted Veggie & Sausage Harvest Bowl!

A couple years ago, on a trip to Seattle, I stopped into Veggie Grill and ordered the Harvest Bowl. It was a winter special, and I'm not sure if it's even on the menu anymore. Sadly, we don't have a Veggie Grill around here, so who knows when I'll get to try anything else from there? But anyway, this bowl was just fantastic! Field Roast vegan sausage, roasted veggies, quinoa, kale, and miso gravy. YUM.

When I picked up a package of No Evil Foods brand The Stallion Italian Sausage in Atlanta last weekend, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it — recreate the Harvest Bowl!! By the way, No Evil Foods is a vegan butcher out of Asheville, North Carolina. Their products are available all over the Southeast and along part of the East Coast. They aren't available in Memphis (even though Nashville does have them), but the Whole Foods in Atlanta carried it, so I stocked up for the road. It's very similar to Field Roast sausage or Tofurky brats, but their sausages have about half the calories and yet the same massive serving of protein (26 grams per sausage!).

I wanted to share with y'all my recipe for my homemade Roasted Veggie & Sausage Harvest Bowl, but if you can't access No Evil Foods products, feel free to sub another vegan sausage. Even homemade seitan sausages would work! This recipe is for a single serving, but it's easy to double or quadruple. I recommend buying your butternut squash already diced because, let's face it, ain't nobody got time to chop a hard winter squash. Also, I found already-shaved Brussels at Trader Joe's in Nashville. They cook much faster than halved sprouts.

Roasted Veggie & Sausage Harvest Bowl
Yields 1 bowl

1 small red potato, diced
1/2 cup butternut squash, diced
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 vegan sausage, sliced
1 cup shaved (or chopped) Brussels sprouts
Soy sauce, to taste
1 Tbsp. white miso
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup cooked brown rice, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the potato and squash with 1 tsp. olive oil, salt, garlic and onion powder, and herbs. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and roast the veggies for about 30 minutes or until browned and tender.

While the veggies are roasting, heat the other 1 tsp. olive oil in a skillet. Add the sliced sausages and Brussels. Saute until sausages are browned and Brussels are tender. When they're done, remove from heat and mix in a little soy sauce to taste (I like using the Bragg's spray).

While everything is cooking, bring a little water to boil in a kettle or in the microwave. Pour a tiny amount (about a tablespoon) into a small bowl and add the miso. Stir until the miso forms a smooth paste. Add the nutritional yeast and vinegar. The sauce should resemble a thick but pourable sauce. If it's too thick to pour, add a little more hot water. 

To assemble, place the cooked rice in the bottom of the bowl. Top with roasted veggies and then the sausage/brussels mix. And then add the sauce. Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Memphis Vegan Thanksgiving!

As I mentioned in last night's post, this past Sunday was our annual Memphis Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck. Our little (okay, it's actually quite large!) vegan social group gets together every year about a week before Thanksgiving for a totally vegan celebration. We first started the tradition when we had an active animal rights/vegan meetup group called Food Awareness, and organizer Vaughan would host a catered Thanksgiving meal at a local comedy club. That group eventually fizzled out (after nearly a decade of monthly meetups!), and the comedy club is long-closed. But for the past few years, friends Barbara and Vaughan have taken turns hosting the event, potluck-style, in their homes. And while Food Awareness no longer has regular meetups, most of the original members (and a bunch of new faces) show up every year.

There's always a ton of amazing vegan food here. Check out my first plate! I went in for round two (more savories) and round three (desserts), but I failed to photograph those plates.

In yesterday's post, I blogged about the dishes I brought, which were both from Kris Holechek Peter's Bringing Home the Seitan cookbook. But I'll show you again. Here's my Seitan & Mushrooms En Croute.

And the Jellied Crockpot "Meat"-balls.

As for everything else, there was Vaughan's hearty Millet with Cashews & Sundried Tomatoes.

Brussels Sprouts!

Kale with Cranberries & Cashews.

Stuffing (just FYI, I typically refer to this dish as dressing, but this was the kind made with torn bits of white bread, which in my mind is solidly stuffing. Dressing involves cornbread).

Nicole made some excellent Sweet Potatoes with Pecans. She broke out her homemade vanilla extract for this one. Delicious!

This Coconut Risotto was amazing! So creamy.

Butternut Squash Home Fries!

Barbara and Ken brought Spicy Lima Beans with Tomatoes. The heat in these was just perfect.

Amy has perfected the art of Roasted Carrots and Asparagus.

And Ashley's Fennel, Clementine, & Pecan Salad was super fancy and refreshing. I'm not even a fennel fan, but I loved it in this salad.

Of course, there was also dessert! Stephanie made this perfect (seriously, everything she makes is perfect) Orange Cranberry Bundt Cake. Just the right level of sweetness.

Cassi went all out and made a Candy Cake. The inside cake was all rainbow tie-dye, and the outside was decorated with vegan-friendly candies, like Twizzlers, SweetTarts, and Skittles.

Shay brought the Chocolate Pumpkin Bread that she made for my birthday potluck last month. This stuff is seriously out of this world. So moist, so chocolate.

And finally, Amy's Raw Key Lime Pie was a welcome taste of the tropics on a chilly November evening.

As always, I failed to take many pictures of actual people. I'm always too focused on the food to remember to take pics of people. I did, however, get this great shot of Nicole and Vaughan's cat, Henry.

And at the end, after Pam and Stephanie and many others had already left, I managed to get a few party pics. Here's Vaughan (one of the hosts), me,  Steven (photobombing behind me and Vaughan) Alex, Cassi, Nicole (the other host), Barbara, Beverly, and Rita.

I'm so grateful for my awesome vegan community in Memphis!