Sunday, April 30, 2017

Imagine Vegan Cafe's 6th Anniversary Party!

Imagine Vegan Cafe celebrated six years in business this weekend! Imagine has been my home away from home for those past six years, and I've tried to eat there weekly since opening day in 2011. Sometimes, I fail at that and two weeks may pass before an Imagine visit, but I don't think I've ever gone more than two weeks without eating there. In those past six years, Imagine has occupied three locations, all along the same street, and each one has quickly begun to feel like home to me.

Imagine had an anniversary party buffet dinner tonight, and for $15, you got access to an all-you-can-eat buffet, two glasses of wine, and a slice of Stephanie's amazing chocolate caramel cake. The party started at 6, but I knew it'd be packed so I arrived at 5:20 to secure a table for myself, Shay, Simon, and Jennifer. We were close to the front of the buffet line, and I got a little serving of everything!

There was spinach-artichoke dip and tortilla chips, alfredo pasta with broccoli, mini turkey club sandwiches, BBQ meatballs, hot wings and ranch, BBQ seitan sliders, a mini taco bar, mini chicken and waffles, turkey pinwheels, and our friend Don's homemade vegan tamales. He made several flavors, but I got the black bean and mushroom tamale, and it was just spectacular.

SO MUCH FOOD! And yes, I cleaned my plate. Here's a close-up of my chicken and waffle.

And the turkey club.

Here's Shay and I before digging in.

And Simon and Jennifer, who'd just returned from a weekend camping trip and were grateful to not have to cook dinner after unpacking.

It's a good thing we arrived early because the place was packed! People were fixing plates and then standing outside the door to eat because they had no place to sit. 

We were pretty well first in line for the buffet. I ALWAYS have to be in the beginning of a buffet line or I get incredible anxiety about some dish running out before I make my way to the front. Here are some buffet shots before people dug in — the spinach dip and pasta.

Turkey clubs. These were so cute!

Vegan hot wings. Not pictured — the bowl of Kristie's amazing homemade vegan ranch for dipping.

And the mini taco bar with black beans, guac, Tofutti sour cream, salsa, tomato, lettuce, and hard and soft shells! I went with the soft flour tortilla.

For my two glasses of wine, I opted for a merlot and a red table wine blend. Two-buck chuck, y'all! We don't even have a Trader Joe's here, but they'd stocked up on that good stuff. Nothing beats economy wine and vegan junk food. Winning.

But that's not all! It's not a party without cake! Stephanie — Imagine's awesome baker/my awesome friend — baked a special chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and caramel glaze. I was pretty full after my savory buffet plate, but this cake put me over the edge. 

Now, it's nearly 10 p.m., and I'm still so stuffed. I'm about to call it a night and sleep off all this food! But I'm so grateful for Imagine. When they first opened in 2011, they were the city's only vegan restaurant. Now we have several, but Imagine holds the number-one place in my heart, always and forever. I've made so many friends there. I've eaten my most memorable meals there. And owners Kristie and Adam do soooooo much to spread the message of veganism. They're truly ethical vegans, and I'm incredibly blessed to have them and Imagine in my life.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Goddess Provisions April Box!

Okay, so I'm way behind in sharing with y'all what was in my April Goddess Provisions subscription box. But better late than never! The monthly box of oils, crystals, vegan snacks, and other goodies arrived in early April, and I've been using most of this stuff almost daily since! April's theme was Sun Energy, which was just perfect as we're finally starting to see some super sunny days and warm spring temps.

There were konjac facial sponges, an amethyst orgone pyramid, lemon ginger macaroons, citrusy energy perfume, a rose water & essential oil surrounding mist, a sunstone, and some greens powder.

Of course my favorite box item are always the crystals, and there were two this month! This orgone pyramid is just gorgeous. It's stuffed with amethysts and copper, and it's said to convert negative energy into positive energy. You're supposed to keep it near you as you sleep to neutralize energy from electronic devices. Since I sleep with my cell phone on my nightstand, I placed this right next to it.

There was also a little pink sunstone, which promotes a sense of abundance and enjoyment of life. Meditating with this stone helps us to feel more warmth toward ourselves and others. I've been carrying this in my purse (along with some special crystals to counteract any negative effects of Mercury Retrograde, which lasts until May 3rd).

The Coal Miner's Daughter Sun Mist and the Miss Violet Lace Energy Perfume both have strong citrus notes from essential oils. The energy perfume is great for getting me going in the a.m., and I've been using the sun mist as a toner after I wash my face each morning.

I've also been using the Andalou Naturals Konjac Sponges when I wash my face in the morning. I love the way these super-squishy sponges feel after they soak for a few minutes in warm water.

There's always a snack in each box, and these Emmy's Organics Lemon Ginger Macaroons are, perhaps, one of my favorite box snacks yet. They're raw macaroons made with coconut, ginger, and lemon, and they taste like sunshine. Each bag has three little bites.

And finally, I was super excited to get the Healthforce Vitamineral Green powder in the box! I've really been getting into green smoothies lately (as opposed to my usual not-so-green protein smoothies). While I love adding fresh greens, this stuff is great in a pinch when your greens are not-so-fresh anymore. I used a teaspoon in my dinner smoothie last night actually! I had an after-work meeting and didn't have time to eat a real dinner, so I whipped up a Creamsicle Smoothie (orange, banana, sunflower seed, almond-cashew milk) from Crazy Sexy Juice and added a little Vitamineral Green powder. Topped with dried orange peel here because I was trying to be fancy despite being pressed for time.

By the way, I'm a Goddess Provisions ambassador, which means I make a couple bucks if anyone signs up using this link. I don't get my boxes free though, just to be clear. I subscribe and pay the $33 a month, and it's totally worth it. It's a great deal, and the boxes are so much fun!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More Stuff I Ate

And I'm back with all the random meal pictures that I couldn't fit into yesterday's post. Here we go!

Two weeks ago, one of my co-workers came into the office with VEGAN DOUGHNUTS, Y'ALL. She'd just returned from a trip to L.A., where she picked up a dozen doughnuts from Donut Friend. She's not vegan, but her son is. And she's just super-awesome! When she came in and announced she had vegan doughnuts, I was the first one in the breakroom. She had a flavor guide that let us know what each one was, and we cut them all into bite-size pieces so we could try them all!

My fave was the doughnut sandwich stuffed with peanut butter and topped with salted chocolate, but the strawberry came in a close second. Some were yeasted, and others were cake. But they were all AMAZING. I probably ate the equivalent of three doughnuts at least (and this was after having a bagel for breakfast). Mind y'all, this was one week before I was already scheduled to do my juice reboot, so I felt pretty okay about just shoving as much junk food into my face as possible.

Speaking of juice, you can read all about last week's juice reboot here. But in addition to the 3-day reboot (where I drank only juices and smoothies until mid-afternoon before switching to solid, whole foods-based snacks and high-raw dinners), I also signed up for Kris Carr's 10-day #greendrinkaday challenge. Today was the last day of that, and I've been keeping up the juices and smoothies — once a day — every day. Here's a Tangy Trip Juice from Monday. The recipe is in Crazy Sexy Juice, but it's fennel, pineapple, celery, cucumber, romaine, and lemon.

And here's a Mint Cacao Chip Smoothie from Crazy Sexy Juice — fresh mint (from my garden!), banana, almond cashew milk, dates, cacao nibs, and Vega One natural protein powder.

I've been trying to find some healthy balance post-reboot. Like, if I'm eating something really decadent for one meal, I'll try and eat some nutrient-packed, healthier thing for another meal. One of my favorite healthy options lately are salads from Mama Gaia. Here's the Asia Salad with sesame baked tofu, Asian slaw, bell pepper, lettuce, and Mama Gaia sauce.

But I still want my daily treats! The day after my reboot, I had half of an Alternative Baking Company Peanut Butter Persuasion Cookie. These cookies are so good! I used to eat them all the time when I first went vegan in 2004 because they were about the only packaged cookies sold in Memphis. I'd forgotten how awesome these are.

When I was at Nashville VegFest, I picked up some Smiling Hara Hempeh. It's a soy-free tempeh made from peanut and hemp and seasoned with the most amazing flavors. I'm totally pro-soy, but I do think it's nice to vary up your protein sources. And the flavors on the hempeh are INSANELY GOOD. I used the Sea Salt & Black Pepper Steak Hempeh in this bowl with brown rice, steamed veggies, and tahini sauce. The hempeh is tender and well-seasoned. Definitely the best ever!

Paul's birthday was last Wednesday, but since he lives in Nashville during the week for work, we didn't get to celebrate together until this weekend. We went out to brunch at Imagine Vegan Cafe with Stephanie and her partner Paul. Imagine was offering a Vegan Omelette special! Mine was stuffed with vegan sausage, peppers, and onions and topped with vegan cheese sauce. Side of kale for balance. OMG, so good! Owner Kristie used FYH Vegan Egg, which I use at home for omelettes, but hers was much better.

I also ordered a Lavender Love Replenish Kombucha because booch.

On Sunday night, Paul and I invited some friends out to Loflin Yard for beers and fun. I toted along some mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream so Paul could have a birthday wish.

On Monday night, I had a meeting after work, so Paul grabbed us some takeout from Crazy Noodle. I went with my standard order of Mandu Guk — vegetable dumplings, Korean rice cakes, and shiitakes in veggie broth.

I haven't had time to cook lately, so lunch yesterday was an Amy's Tofu Scramble Wrap with salsa and nooch and a side of air-fried potatoes.

We had Vegan Drinks last night at Blue Nile Ethiopian Kitchen, and they have a new menu item — Tofu Tibs! I was so stoked to try these! Fried tofu and greens served with two sides and injera. I went with stewed potatoes and carrots and the house salad. Washed down with a Southern Prohibition Devil's Harvest.

And finally, here's a FitQuick Pizza Protein Waffle that I had for breakfast today after my run. In my effort to sneak in more veggies, I topped it with Muir Glen Garden Vegetable pasta sauce, roasted broccoli (made in the air fryer) and some nooch.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Stuff I Ate

Lots of random meals to catch y'all up on!

Way back in the beginning of April, I met up with some former Memphis Flyer co-workers (Susan and Toby) for lunch buffet at Pho Binh. This Midtown hotspot is known for its amazing tofu buffet. The lemongrass tofu is legendary, but they were out on our first trip to the buffet. Don't worry — they brought fresh out later! Pictured here is the Green Bean Tofu and the Black Bean Tofu with the Clear Soup.

After Nashville VegFest, I had a bunch of my Tofu Eggless Olive Salad (the same thing I demo-ed at Memphis VegFest last weekend) left. Had some with crackers and Horseradish Hummus (from Trader Joe's) with crudites and wine. Also some Punk Rawk Labs Nacho Cheese and crackers.

A couple weeks ago, I Love Juice Bar held its second annual fun run — a 3-mile jaunt around Cooper-Young. I met up with Jennifer, Simon, and Shay.

And I got the chance to test out my new I Love Tofu shorts.

They handed out free Beet Juice Shots before the run.

And after, there was free Memphis Made beer and snacks. Tiny PB&J Sandwiches.

And Kale Salad.

And Juice Bar's best-ever Pad Thai Noodle Bowls. 

A random breakfast of Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Blueberry Waffles with fresh blueberries and maple syrup.

Another random breakfast of Engine 2 Rip's Big Bowl Cereal with Vegan Sausage and Grapes.

Juice! This was a post-run treat a couple weeks back from the So Fresh juice/smoothie truck at the Memphis Farmers Market. This was an Apple-Carrot-Ginger Juice. Great for post-run carbs and hydration.

A FitQuick Lemon Poppyseed Protein Waffle with Fresh Nectarine, Maple, & Tahini! Another post-run treat!

A couple Fridays ago, I met my friends Pam and Shay for lunch at Al-Rayan, a little, mom-and-pop-style Middle Eastern restaurant for my very fave Ful Medames (fava bean stew). It's served with pita, tomato, onion, and jalapeno. I'm convinced Al-Rayan's ful is one of Memphis' best-kept secrets.

As usual, I have way more pics that I'm willing to cram into one post, so I'll be back tomorrow with more random meals!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Memphis VegFest Recap!

The first Memphis VegFest was Saturday at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park, and it was great success! We've had other vegan fests in the past, but this was the first one organized by Angel Jackson of Replenish Kombucha. And she says it won't be the last!

It rained ALL MORNING on Saturday, and it was unseasonably cold with temps in the 50s. The fest was outdoors, but the rain and cold didn't keep the vegans away! Most of the vendors showed up despite the fact that they had to set up their tents and tables in the rain. When the fest opened at 11 a.m., a crowd quickly gathered. And many of those people stuck around in the rain and cold all day. The rain eventually let up around 1 p.m., but it was still cold and wet. Yet most vendors sold out of food and gave away all their samples.

My demo was supposed to be at 12:30, but they couldn't set up the speakers and mic equipment until the rain let up. And since I knew I could stick around all day, I told Angel to just put my demo wherever she needed, and I ended up taking the 3:30 spot at the end of the day. That gave me more time to hang out with friends and eat ALL THE THINGS.

My first stop was the Lucky Cat Ramen booth. They're a vegan-friendly ramen pop-up that typically sells at The Cove on Sundays and Memphis Made Brewery on Thursdays, but I keep missing them when they're there. I couldn't wait to try their vegan Roasted Corn Miso Ramen!

The broth was definitely the best ramen broth I've ever had. There are a few places in town serving vegan ramen, but Lucky Cat definitely wins!
After ramen, I grabbed a beer — Memphis Made Fireside — from the TapBox beer truck and a Vegan Banana Pudding from the folks at Southern Veggie Cuisine. They were selling banana pudding cups and vegan tamales! Sadly, I was so stoked to eat that pudding that I failed to take a picture. I did, however, get a pic of Simon and Jennifer eating their Black Bean Tamale.

Later in the day, I also got a tamale. By then, she was out of vegan cheese, but that was just fine. Looks messy but tasted awesome. It was stuffed with black beans and tofu.

Her tamales and pudding were VERY popular. She had the longest lines all day.

Zaka Bowl was there with free samples. They had Brown Rice & Chickpea Bowls. I added their Sweet Curry sauce.

Replenish Kombucha was the primary sponsor for the fest, so I had to have some while I was there! Here's their Hibiscus Kombucha. 

Phillip Ashley Chocolates had a sample booth. Phillip Ashley Rix is a local chocolatier who creates these gorgeous, hand-crafted, hand-painted chocolates. Not all of his chocolate is vegan, but he has a vegan truffle collection that I've been lucky enough to receive as a gift from Paul before. So good! Anyway, Phillip was there selling his vegan praline truffles (I bought a box!), and he had samples of vegan chocolate bark. This Hot Ass Chocolate was created with locally made Nikki's Hot Ass Potato Chips. The combo of dark chocolate and spicy/salty chips was amazing.

I caught a couple of food demos throughout the day. Brandon Thomas of Guilt-Free Pastries showed us how he makes his Vegan Granola, which is by far my favorite locally made granola. It's got a base of mixed nuts rather than oats, and it's loaded with other good stuff like coconut oil, goji berries, and pumpkin seeds.

I also watched the folks at Mama Gaia demo their quinoa and veggie bowls. They didn't have samples to hand out, but they gave the full bowls they created out to a couple lucky audience members to polish off. Megan got the Copia Bowl (arugula, antipasti veggies), and I helped her eat it!

Hanging with Don and Kenzie and Megan!

And then, finally, at 3:30 p.m., I went onstage! I demo-ed my Tofu Eggless Olive Salad from Cookin' Crunk. 

After my demo, they announced the winners of the vegan challenge cook-off, in which local home chefs went up against restaurant chefs in a cook-off. Mama Gaia won first place in the entree category, but I can't remember who won the dessert competition. And then it was time to go home and dry off!

Memphis VegFest was a great success, and I'm so proud of Angel and the other organizers for pulling the whole thing off and persisting despite the awful weather! Can't wait 'til next year!