Thursday, March 30, 2017

Snow Monkey Superfood Ice Treat!

I've long been a fan of homemade banana soft serve. You just throw a frozen banana in the food processor with a teensy splash of almond milk, and bam — you've got yourself a creamy, dreamy — and HEALTHY — frozen dessert. It's super-simple to make, and you can customize it with all manner of things from protein powder to additional fruits to nut butters.

But as easy as that is, some days, you really don't need to be bothered with dirtying up any dishes. You need ice cream, stat. But you're in the mood for something that not only satisfies but nourishes. Enter Snow Monkey Superfood Ice Treat.

This is basically banana soft serve in ready-to-eat form, but it's also got all kinds of other goodness packed in. The Cacao has bananas, apple puree, hemp protein powder, cocoa powder, and sunflower butter, among other good things. And the Goji Berry has a similar banana-hemp-apple-sunflower base with goji berry powder, blueberry, and blackberry juice (also minus the cocoa). Their tagline is "If Mother Nature didn't make it, we didn't use it." Love it!

It's also nut-free, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly (if that's your thing). Each 1/2-cup serving has only 99 calories and 5 grams of protein, so you can basically eat the entire pint for 400 calories and 20 grams of protein. This stuff would actually make a great post-run, post-workout recovery meal!

I enjoyed mine as snacks though! The Cacao Snow Monkey made an excellent late-night snack on Friday night topped with cacao nibs and some PB2. I mixed the PB2 powder with more water than usual to make more of a peanut sauce rather than a paste.

And then, just yesterday, I had two scoops of the Goji Berry Snow Monkey with banana, strawberries, and hemp seeds as a pre-yoga snack. This kept me satisfied well through after-work yoga until I could get back home and prepare a full dinner. Probably because those two scoops had 10 grams of plant-based protein!

Love this stuff! Snow Monkey sent me these samples to review, but I'm hoping I can find this for sale locally eventually. You can purchase it on the Snow Monkey website, but it's only available in six-packs, which I guess makes sense considering that it might not be worth all the cold ship packaging to ship just one pint. It's great stuff though! Highly recommended!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Stuff I Ate

Another random meal round-up! Here are a few things I've been eating lately.

But first, check out this picture my mom found! This is me, sitting on the counter in our totally 80s trailer, mixing up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. My mom got me started in the kitchen at an early age. She was an excellent cooking instructor!

No idea why but this photo of Avocado Toast got more Instagram likes than anything else I've ever posted. It's up to 404 now, and I typically average about 100 likes. Maybe it's because I hash-tagged it #avotoast. But really, it's just an ordinary slice of avocado toast with nooch and hot sauce. Nothing special. And also way uglier than most things hash-tagged #avotoast. Have y'all seen the fancy stuff people are doing with toast these days? Seriously.

I went to Jonesboro to visit my parents a couple weekends ago, and much to my delighted surprise, my mama had made homemade Vegan Cinnamon Rolls. Because she's the best mom ever.

After stuffing my face with cinnamon rolls, we went out for dinner at Uncle Maddio's where I got this Vegan Pizza with Daiya, tofu, green and black olives, bell pepper, red onion, and portabella mushrooms.

The Memphis Vegan Drinks meetup for March was at City Silo, a newly rebranded restaurant that has a ton of healthy vegan options. I got the Buffalo Tempeh & Sesame Cauliflower Bowl over grilled zucchini noodles and topped with corn, kale, homemade cashew ranch, and avocado spread. OMG SO GOOD. You can also get this as a wrap. City Silo is so good, y'all. So good.

Pre-run Peanut Butter Bagel (cinnamon raisin bagel from Dave's Bagels, Steem caffeinated peanut butter).

My pal Megan went to SXSW in Austin a couple weeks ago, and she brought her friends back some Dillos! These are like vegan Twinkies, and they're made by Cakewalk. You can order them on Vegan Essentials, but they also sell them in awesome vegan grocery stores, like Rabbit Food in Austin. This was a Mexican Chocolate Dillo, which was stuffed with chocolate cream. I know it looks like poop, but it certainly didn't taste like poop!

My brunch bitches and I brunched at Midtown Crossing Grill last Sunday. I started with a Vegan Bloody Mary.

And then I had a Tofu Scramble with Daiya, bell peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. I love that they serve their scramble in tiny cast iron skillets! The skillet is hot, so you stir the vegan cheese in, and it gets all melty and wonderful.

And I also got the Vegan Biscuits & Redeye Gravy, which was PHENOMENAL. The biscuits were topped with sausage and then covered in brown gravy (made with coffee, for all you non-Southerners who have never had redeye gravy).

I make my own kombucha, but sometimes I run out before my next batch is ready. Since I drink 8 ounces daily, I have to buy it when I run out. Love this KeVita Raspberry Lemon Kombucha. Also, I found these Almond Coconut Perfect Bars on manager's special at Kroger for 99 cents a box! That's 99 cents for 8 bars! So I grabbed three boxes. Now I have 24 Perfect Bars! I'm pretty sure whoever was marking things down was supposed to mark them down to 99 cents PER BAR (because other flavors were individually priced). But whatever. Their loss! My win!

I picked up some Kale Quinoa Burgers at ALDI a couple weeks ago. I had one with avocado, tomato, and onion with a side of tortilla chips. These were very much a VEGGIE burger, so they weren't super meaty in texture and didn't have much protein (2 grams). But they were good and a nice way to sneak in some extra veggies.

I ordered a new (to me) flavor of FitQuick protein waffles! Double Chocolate Brownie! Served here with Soom Foods Chocolate Sesame Spread, CocoWhip, and berries (I added way more berries after this shot). 22 grams of plant-based protein after my run!

This morning's breakfast was another Dave's Bagel — Onion & Garlic Bagel with Vegan Cream Cheese (love these single-serving Go Veggie cream cheeses!) and fresh berries and grapes.

And finally, today's lunch was a salad. We have catered staff meetings at work, and today's lunch came from Young Avenue Deli. It was a Greek salad mix, but I added my own white beans, hemp seeds, air-fried croutons, and homemade herbs dressing. I believe the dressing they brought was vegan, but since I was bringing in my own salad toppings, I figured I'd use up the rest of this homemade stuff.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ultimate Almond Dream

Out of all the plant milks, I'd have to say almond milk is my fave. The almond taste is fairly neutral and doesn't stand out too much in savory or sweet dishes. But that hint of almond flavor is there, and it's delicious.

Most almond milk has a sort of medium thickness — not as thick as coconut milk, but way thicker than rice milk. It's pretty on-par with soymilk (which I also love), but it's safe for those who have soy intolerances or allergies (not me, thank god). It's just the most versatile! But that said, I do love thick and creamy milks, especially for smoothies or cereal. And there's a new almond milk in town that is hella thick because it's made with four times more almonds than other almond milks. Meet Dream Ultimate Almond.

This reminds me of homemade almond milk — the kind you make by soaking raw almonds, blending, and straining the pulp. Making your own results in a dreamy, creamy milk, but let's face it — ain't nobody got time for that.

The folks at Dream sent me a sample to review, and I'm SO. GLAD. THEY. DID. This thick and creamy milk is about the same consistency of a thick vegan coffee creamer, but it only has a hint of sweetness. It's wonderful!

Look at that thick stream pouring into my Love Grown Power O's Cereal!

Also great with granola — shown here with some locally made Guilt-Free Pastries Vegan Granola. A perfect pre-yoga snack.

I prefer my smoothies to be very thick, almost like milkshakes. And this stuff does the trick. Yesterday, I used only a 1/2 cup of Ultimate Almond Dream mixed with a 1/2 cup of Good Karma flaxmilk, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 frozen banana, and a scoop of Vega One French Vanilla protein power to make a smoothie so thick, it was almost difficult sucking it through a straw. But not too difficult. Perfect actually.

Each 8-ounce glass has five grams of protein, thanks all those extra almonds. But the only downside to all those almonds is a significantly higher calorie milk. My usual almond milk (Unsweetened from Diamond Breeze) is only 25 calories per cup. This stuff is 150 per cup! Big difference! But it's so rich and creamy, it's practically dessert. Definitely an indulgence but awesome.

Dream also makes rice milks, cashew milks, coconut milks, almond and coconut yogurts, and ice creams made with soy, coconut, almond, and rice milks. I've tried many of those, and what I've tried has been very good. Along with this almond milk, they also included a carton of rice milk. And I didn't think I'd like it since my impression of rice milk from my early vegan days left much to be desired. But you know what? It wasn't bad! Definitely thinner than I prefer in my milks, but the flavor was quite good! I enjoyed it in smoothies and by the glass to wash down desserts.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Giveaway: Veganize It

Robin Robertson has another new book out, y'all. Seriously, how does she do it? If you're not familiar with Robin's name, you'll surely recognize the names of one of her 20 or so vegan cookbooks. You probably even have a few on your cookbook shelf. There's Vegan Planet, Vegan Without Borders, Quick-Fix Vegan, and Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker to name a few. Now she has a new book — Veganize It — and I think it may be her best work yet!

Veganize It features easy DIY recipes for vegan staples and also recipes that use those staples to mimic beloved classics we all grew up eating in our omnivore past lives. For example, you'll find recipes for homemade coconut milk or oat milk, aquafaba butter, and smoky vegan queso. You'll also see recipes for homemade plant meats, like seitan roast or tempeh bacon.

But then there are other recipes in the book that use those homemade ingredients — Piccata Meatballs with Penne and Asparagus (using homemade vegan butter and homemade meat-free meatballs), Devilish Ham Salad (made with homemade vegan ham and homemade mayo), or Summer Rolls with Fish-Free Nuoc Cham (using, you guessed it, homemade fish-free fish sauce). Of course, Robin makes it simple for those who'd rather not spend extra time making staples; she also suggests store-bought items that can be used in their place.

I love the variety of meals included in this book. The recipes run the global gamut, and some feature veggies as the center of the dish (like Jumpin' Jackfruit Chili) while others are focused on vegan protein (like Seitan Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce). I had a hard time choosing what to try first because everything looks so amazing (the full-color pics are gorgeously styled). But then I came across Breakfast Nachos, and well, my choice was clear. Because nachos. For breakfast.

Tortilla chips are topped with a tofu scramble-black bean mixture that's seasoned with onion, garlic, and cumin. Then that's topped with Robin's homemade Smoky Vegan Queso, a spicy dip with a nooch-cornstarch base. This dip is so good, and I'm glad I've got leftovers for eating on its own. It's like the classic nooch sauce that all vegans made in the early 2000s, except there's no flour, so it's creamy without that gravy-like consistency. The cornstarch thickens and gives it a silky smooth texture.

That's all topped with fresh tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, and avocado. Delicious! I air-fried some corn tortillas to make my chips, so they were pretty much fat-free. Nothing against fat, but I love it when chips are basically health food. One thing to note: I actually didn't eat these for breakfast. I made them for a hearty brinner last night! But they'd be perfect in the morning too.

The publisher has graciously offered to let me give a copy of Veganize It away to one lucky reader (U.S. residents only, please -- their rules!). So just leave a comment on this post letting me know what meal you love to veganize. Be sure and leave an email address (unless you're sure I already know how to contact you through a blog or Facebook or something). I'll randomly select a winner on Friday (March 31st) morning at 9 a.m. CST.

Also, the publisher has given me permission to share the Breakfast Nachos and Smoky Vegan Queso recipes! Here ya go!

Text excerpted from VEGANIZE IT! © 2017 by Robin Robertson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Photo by William and Susan Brinson.
Nachos for breakfast is a fun way to start the day. Make the queso sauce in advance and the nachos will come together quickly.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, chopped
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and diced
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ cups cooked or 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
¼ cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 recipe Smoky Queso Sauce (below), kept warm
1 (13-ounce) bag restaurant-style tortilla chips

1 Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and scallions and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the tofu and salt, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in the nutritional yeast, cumin, and turmeric. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Stir in the beans, cover, and keep warm.
2 In a medium bowl, combine the tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. Season with salt to taste and mix well. Gently stir in the avocado.
3 To assemble, spoon a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of a large plate. Place half of the chips on top of the sauce. Spoon half of the sauce on top of the chips, followed by half of the tofu and beans, and then half of the salsa. Top with the remaining chips and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, garnished with additional cilantro, if using.
Text excerpted from VEGANIZE IT! © 2017 by Robin Robertson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
This easy-cheesy sauce is great for nachos or folded into cooked pasta for a zesty mac and cheese. If chopped pimientos are unavailable, you can substitute 3 tablespoons chopped roasted red bell pepper.
1 (2-ounce) jar chopped pimientos, drained
1 teaspoon canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 ½ cups plain unsweetened almond milk or water

1 Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2 Transfer to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Use as desired.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Peachy Green Protein Ice Cream + Oats!

I'm sad to say that my very favorite podcast — Rise & Resist — is no more. Co-hosts/body-posi fitness warriors/badasses Holly and Lacy said they're just too busy to make recording work right now. Holly runs New Ethic (a plant-based, body-positive gym in Oakland), and she runs her FitQuick protein waffle business, and Lacy is in the process of opening Liberation Barbell, her very own body-posi gym in Portland. They're busy ladies, and I totally understand. But I'm still bummed. Rise & Resist taught me so much about body positivity and body image, and I really believe it's made me a better, more well-informed person. Side note: Lacy started a new podcast on her own called Femmes to the Front, and it's super rad.

I'll miss the "one rep snax" segment the most — that section at the end when Holly and Lacy would discuss their favorite food of the moment. I got a ton of meal and snack ideas from that segment, but one of the best was Lacy's banana ice cream/warm oats combo (she also included this on her Reset & Restore plan that I did in January). You serve cold, homemade banana soft serve atop warm, creamy oats, and it is just magical. Something about that warm/hot combo just totally does it for me.

This weekend, I came up with a quick and easy recipe for a ice cream/oats bowl using some Sari Foods Wheatgrass Powder that Sari Foods sent me to review. 

This alkalizing superfood powder is totally organic, and it's a good source of fiber, chlorophyll, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins A, E, and B12, calcium, selenium, and iron. So it's pretty much a powerhouse. It's also known to give you quite an energy boost (how could it not with all those vitamins and minerals?). You can mix this powder with water and shoot it if you want, but greens powder doesn't really taste that great. I think it's much tastier mixed into a smoothie or banana ice cream. 

This Peachy Green Protein Ice Cream and Oats sneaks the wheatgrass (and some protein) into banana-peach soft serve, which is served alongside hot, agave-sweetened oats. So good!

I like to add protein powder to my banana soft serve for a post-run recovery treat, but you can always leave that out if you're looking for more of a snack than a meal.

Here's my recipe for Peachy Green Protein Ice Cream and Oats!

Peachy Green Protein Ice Cream + Oats
Yields 1 serving

For the oats:
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup quick-cooking steel cut oats
1 Tbsp. agave

For the ice cream:
1 frozen banana, cut into chunks
1/2 cup frozen peaches
1/4 cup almond milk
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
1 Tbsp. Sari Foods Wheatgrass Powder

Bring the 3/4 cup water to boil in a small saucepan. Add the oats. Reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered, stirring regularly, for 5 to 7 minutes or until oats have thickened and softened. Add the agave and stir to combine.

While the oats are cooking, add the frozen banana, frozen peaches, and almond milk to a food processor. Process until completely smooth, like the texture of soft serve ice cream. You'll have to stop several times to scrape down the sides of the processor, and at first, it'll seem like the mixture will never get smooth. But it will! Patience.

Once the ice cream is smooth, add the protein powder and wheatgrass powder. Process to combine. 

To serve, spoon the oats into one half of a bowl and the ice cream into the other. Eat!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mama Gaia Opens in Crosstown!

This is a post about a new vegetarian restaurant. And I'll get to that. But first, some context.

I live and work in Crosstown — a Midtown Memphis neighborhood that's centered around a million-square-foot former Sears headquarters that was erected in the late 1920s. It's a beautiful, old, art-deco-style building that served as the central hub of this neighborhood for decades. But the building was shuttered in the late 1990s, and it sat vacant for years. In fact, it was still a blighted, old hulk of a building when I bought my house in the Evergreen Historic District, just blocks away from the building's shadow, in 2012. Here I am at a festival earlier this year with the Crosstown building in the background. This gives you an idea of just how massive it is! It takes up an entire city block.

For the past few years, there's a been this awesome grassroots movement to revitalize and repurpose the building. A massive construction project has been underway for over a year now, and soon, the building will re-open as Crosstown Concourse and house all sorts of retail, restaurants, a craft brewery, art facilities, medical offices and clinics, education organizations, a high school, and lots of residential apartments. My office at Crosstown Arts will relocate there, and we'll have galleries, a film screening room, music spaces, an artist residency program, a shared art-making lab, a plant-based cafe, and eventually, a performing arts theater. It's all very exciting!

Even though some apartment residents have been living on-site on the completed floors since January, so much of the building is still a construction zone. Yet new life is happening! This weekend, the first restaurant in the building — Mama Gaia — will open to the public. And guess what? It's a vegetarian restaurant, and everything (EVERY. SINGLE. THING.) is organic! I was invited to Mama Gaia several times this week to sample a few dishes.

On Tuesday, a co-worker and I stopped by, and I ordered the Cena Bowl — quinoa, sauteed mushrooms, and asparagus. The mushrooms were coated in a tomato-y, white wine sauce and were bursting with flavor. 

Nicole ordered the Asia Salad with sesame-crusted tofu and bell peppers. 

I also sampled some of the Oogave agave-sweetened sodas. These are low-calorie and all-natural.

I was back on Wednesday for a Crosstown Arts staff meeting. I got the Asia Pita with sesame-crusted tofu, Asian slaw, red bell pepper, and Mama Gaia sauce. Wow! That tofu was AMAZING. It's baked and every inch is coated in crispy sesame seeds. 

On the side, I had some Hand-Cut Baked Fries, served with organic ketchup. Nothing at Mama Gaia is fried, so you can feel pretty good about whatever you eat.

Mama Gaia specializes in pita sandwiches, which are stuffed with veggies, quinoa, tofu, hummus, and various sauces. But they also offer those same pitas as bowls and salads, both of which make them gluten-free. It's a vegetarian restaurant, so they do serve some cheese. But vegan items are clearly marked with a V, and many items can easily be made vegan. Gluten-free items are marked with a GF. They also indicate which items contain nuts with an N.

Oh, and there are desserts! Healthy ones! On Wednesday, they let us sample the Vegan Brownie Bites. These are vegan and sweetened with dates. They also have a hint of coconut, and they boast a rich cocoa flavor.

Owner Philipp snuck me a Raw Vegan Carrot Cake Ball as well! These were like little energy balls made with dates, nuts, and carrots and taste exactly like carrot cake. The finished product is coated in coconut flakes, but either way, these were delicious.

On Thursday night, I attended a VIP party at Mama Gaia, and they had small samples of menu items available. So much goodness!


Mama Gaia officially opens at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 25th! And then they'll be open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., with plans to open earlier for breakfast in the near future.

I'm so excited to have Mama Gaia in the neighborhood. My office won't be moving into the building until later this year, but I can't wait to just pop downstairs for a quick lunch pita. Still yet, it's literally across the street from my house and current office, so those quick lunches are still possible now. 

More vegan-friendly eateries will be opening in Crosstown Concourse very soon, and I'll be sure to update you as they do!