Thursday, June 29, 2017

Stuff I Ate: Restaurant Edition

More stuff I ate. This time, it's all from local restaurants. I've been eating out quite a bit lately, especially from Imagine Vegan Cafe. But while we're on the subject of restaurants, check this out! I wrote a piece on Memphis vegan restaurants for the VegTravel feature in the July/August issue of VegNews Magazine. It's out on stands now. Here's the cover!

And here's the feature! I shouted out to Imagine Vegan Cafe, Raw Girls, Zaka Bowl, Mama Gaia, Juice Bar, Fuel Cafe, Blue Nile Ethiopian Kitchen, City Silo Table + Pantry, and Dejavu Restaurant. And for non-food-related travel fun, I mentioned the National Civil Rights Museum, Big River Crossing, and Crosstown Concourse (shameless plug, I know). Sadly, I had to leave out a number of awesome vegan-friendly places because I could only fit so many into the word count.

As for stuff I ate, let's start with Imagine. Owner Kristie is updating the menu, and she's removing a few of my favorite items. Sadness. So I dined there THREE TIMES last week in an effort to have those items one last time. One of those is the Meatball Sub, enjoyed here with sauteed spinach.

Also going off the menu is the Quesadilla. This one is stuffed with vegan steak and cheese, topped with guac, Tofutti, and salsa. The quesadilla is usually served in a larger tortilla, but they were already out when I got this, so they used two smaller ones. Still delicious.

The BBQ Salad is going off-menu too. Chunky, saucy bbq seitan served atop greens, broccoli, tomato, and carrots. Best with Imagine's housemade vegan ranch.

I also squeezed in a work day lunch with my neighbor Karen at Mama Gaia in Crosstown Concourse last week. I got the Copia Pita with roasted zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, leeks, and onion, hummus, and olive-basil sauce. This may be my new Mama Gaia fave. That olive sauce is FIRE!

Speaking of Crosstown Concourse (where I work), the MemPopS truck dropped by on Monday with handcrafted frozen treats. I had the Roasted Peach, made with locally grown Jones Orchard peaches. MemPopS will be opening a brick-and-mortar location in Concourse soon, and you know what that means? POPSICLES ERRYDAY!

And finally, here's a quick smoothie from City Silo, enjoyed while running errands a couple Saturdays ago. It's the Jammin' Smoothie with banana, strawberry, almond butter, flax oil, and cold-pressed Granny Smith apple juice. Tasted like a PB&J sandwich! So good!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Stuff I Ate

Wow. It's been way too long since I've done one of these Stuff I Ate posts! So here ya go. And expect more pics tomorrow.

Going WAY back to, like, late May, here's a pic of an amazing BBQ Sandwich I ate. I picked up this seitan-based BBQ by No Evil Foods (a small vegan meat company based out of Asheville, North Carolina) at the Nashville VegFest. It's called Pit Boss, and it is soooooo good! I made a quick coleslaw with red cabbage and Vegenaise.

Memphis FINALLY got the Beyond Meat Beyond Burger at our Whole Foods! I'd tried it once before after finding the burgers on sale in Little Rock, but it took them longer to get it stocked in Tennessee stores for some reason. Pam picked me up a package over the weekend when she was out east. I made these for dinner for me and Paul on Monday night, and Paul loved them! He eats meat, but he said these burgers were amazing. I completely agree. There is no better burger. We had our burgers with air-fried "roasted" garlic potatoes.

Hey look, it's a bagel! By Dave's Bagel's of course. This was a Cajun Bagel with Vegan Cream Cheese and Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel seasoning (thanks Sarah for gifting me the salt!!).

Here's a quick thrown together meal that I made to use up some leftover peanut sauce. Sauteed Soy Curls over Kale and Brown Rice, topped with peanut sauce. Mmmm.

And quick Vegan Cashew Cheese & Bean Quesadilla that I made to use up some not-so-great black rice tortilla wraps by Ezekiel. I love most of Ezekiel's products, but these gluten-free wraps are not my fave. The flavor and texture is okay, but they don't hold together for a wrap. I bought these for breakfast burritos, and went through three before I gave up on using them for burritos. Sadly, I've learned this lesson about these wraps before and still tried again. Anyway, they tear every time. But they're decent for use in a quesadilla since there's less folding involved. For this, I used leftover Easy Cashew Cheese from Aine Carlin's book, some leftover white beans, and some sauteed kale, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Salsa verde for dipping and a side salad.

I also used some leftover Easy Cashew Cheese to make this grilled cheese for lunch yesterday. Served with quick and easy frozen Thai Coconut Soup by Smart Soup. The Smart Soups were on closeout at Kroger for $2 a piece, so I bought a few boxes. This stuff is really good! The Thai soup is loaded with crunchy veggies, like celery, carrots, and baby corn, and the broth is made with coconut water.

A quick post-run breakfast — Lenny & Larry's Peanut Butter Protein Cookie, Almond Milk, and a Banana.

And another breakfast — a failed Vegan Omelet made with Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg, kale, nooch, and peppers. Served with sprouted grain toast. I usually make beautiful omelets with Vegan Egg, but I tried to flip this one a little too soon. Oh well! Tasted amazing!

More pics tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Vegan Cuts Fitness Fuel Box!

A few weeks back, Vegan Cuts ran a week-long sale on a few of their boxes, and they had a Fitness Fuel Box on sale for $29. I'm a huge fitness nutrition nerd who probably spends way too much time obsessing over protein powders and bars and planning what I'll eat pre-workout, during, and post-workout. But that's what makes fitness fun to me! I sometimes think, if it weren't for the food, I wouldn't be as nearly into fitness.

Anyway, I ordered that box, and it arrived a few days later. I've been working my way through it over the past couple weeks.

Inside was Gorilly Goods Jungle Trail Mix, Emmy’s Organics Dark Cacao Coconut Cookies, Legendary Foods Pecan Pie Almond Butter, Bell Plantation PB2 powder, Orgain Protein Bars, Vibrant Health Pro Matcha Packets, Ultima Lemonade Stick Packs, Veggie Elite Cinnamon Bun Protein Powder, WOWBUTTER packs, Navitas Naturals Cacao Cranberry Bars, Kunachia Chia Shots + Probiotic, Soylent Drink, Organic Gemini Sliced TigerNut Raw Snack, Joe’s Oat Patties Burger Mix, Namaste Foods Broccoli and Cheddar Soup Cup, Atlantic Natural Foods neategg, GURU Energy Drink, and a Bob’s Red Mill Blueberry Hazelnut Oatmeal Cup.

With most of the items, the box included two of each! I haven't tried everything yet, but here are some thoughts on what I have tried. The box was shipped to my office, so at snack time that day, I reached for the Gorilly Goods Jungle Trail Mix. This had dried bananas, cashews, pecans, coconut, and raisins. Really yummy on it's own, but this would also be great in a yogurt cup.

The Emmy’s Organics Dark Cacao Coconut Cookies are just 100 calories each. I tend to take in about 100 calories before my morning short runs of 3 to 4 miles. These lightly sweet coconut chocolate macaroons were great pre-run snacks.

I need larger snacks before afternoon workouts — yoga or gym classes — since I tend to be much hungrier in the 5 p.m. hour. These Navitas Naturals Cacao Cranberry Bars were great for pre-yoga. These raw bars had a subtle, tart cranberry flavor with hints of cacao.

But my fave bar of the box were definitely the Orgain Peanut Butter Protein Bars! Because peanut butter!! I tend to reserve protein bars for post-workout since you need protein for muscle recovery, but they're also nice for a pre-workout, afternoon snack when you're really hangry. I find the protein tends to tide me over until dinner. I also really love the lightly chewy texture of a protein bar.

While I tended to use much of these items for fitness, I also found use for some of them at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival a few weeks ago. For example, the GURU Energy Drink came in handy on the 6-hour drive to the fest. I'm not really a fan of energy drinks, but that's because most taste like chemicals. But this one is all-natural and tasted fruity and delicious. I can't say if this drink alone was enough to power me through a drive because I also had at least 3 cups of coffee, but I'm sure it helped!

I packed the Namaste Foods Broccoli and Cheddar Soup Cup, the Bob’s Red Mill Blueberry Hazelnut Oatmeal Cup, and the WOWBUTTER packs for Bonnaroo as well. The soup and oats made for easy camping meals, and the soynut butter was a nice stir-in for my oats.

I'm not running long distances right now since I'm in a pre-training mode before I start marathon training again. So I don't really NEED protein powders with 20+ grams, but I was dying to try the Veggie Elite Cinnamon Bun Protein Powder anyway. So I made a Cinnamon Bun Smoothie after a short 4-miler one morning. Banana, almond milk, cinnamon bun protein powder. Tasted like a cinnamon roll in a glass!

I added the Kunachia Chia Shots + Probiotic packet to a chocolate smoothie post-run one day. This contains ground chia seeds that are enhanced with probiotics. Fun add-in!

I've long been a fan of Ultima Electrolyte powders, so I was happy to see my fave flavor — Lemonade — in the box. These are SO REFRESHING after a tough run in the Memphis heat.

The item in the box that I was most excited about were the Legendary Foods Pecan Pie Almond Butters! There were two of these small sample jars, each containing about 2 1/2 tablespoons. I immediately opened one to take a tiny taste, but I've not used any yet because I want to wait for just the right thing to try it on (probably a bagel!). These are sooooo good! Sweet almond butter with cinnamon and chunks of pecan. Tastes like pecan pie!

The Tiger Nuts were really interesting! I'd never heard of these, but they're actually not nuts at all but rather tubers that are thinly sliced to look like almonds. They have a nutty flavor but a chewier texture, and they're high in magnesium and potassium. I've been enjoying them on yogurt bowls like this one with Kite Hill Pineapple Yogurt, fresh strawberries, walnuts, and Tiger Nuts.

Another neat item in the box was the small sample pack of Joe’s Oat Patties Burger Mix. This is a dry mix made with oats, portabella mushrooms, and other dried veggies. You just mix with water, form patties, and fry them in a skillet. I really loved these burgers! They reminded me of the oat burger that was served in the long-closed Square Foods in Memphis years ago. The patty was soft, of course, but it held together well and had an earthy mushroom flavor. Bonus: They had a high protein content. I topped mine with Chao cheese, tomato, pickle, and lettuce. Served with a side of air-fried "roasted" potatoes. 

I've not yet opened the PB2 packs because I already have a jar of PB2 open, but I love this low-fat powdered peanut butter! Same with neategg — already have an open package, but I do love this stuff as an egg substitute for baking. I'm soooo very excited to try the Soylent, which is a complete nutrition drink with 20 grams of protein. I've tried coffee Soylent and loved it, but I've never had the original formula. Will make a great meal replacement on a day when my long run goes through the lunch hour. I like to eat lightly on those days to make sure I'm plenty hungry when dinner time rolls around.

It looks like the Fitness Fuel Box is sold out now (sorry!), but Vegan Cuts offers various fitness and athlete boxes from time to time so I'm sure another box will be coming out soon.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Lucky Number 13!

Paul and I celebrated our 13th anniversary this weekend! The actual date — June 28 — is Wednesday, but Paul is living part-time in Nashville for work so he'll be out of town on the real date.

We started our anniversary celebration at the BubblePOPP As If 90s party at Minglewood Hall on Saturday night. These pop-up parties have decade themes (the last BubblePOPP theme was the 80s) and feature a DJ spinning songs of the era and projections of iconic films. EVERYONE dresses up, which is awesome. Paul and I were both teens in the 90s so that is our era! I wore a crushed velvet dress and borrowed some platform boots from my friend Shara. Also lots of body glitter, butterfly clips, and a choker! Paul wore JNCOs, a chain wallet, and (not pictured) a pager (!!!) that he borrowed from Shara (she never threw anything away!). We danced all night to Nirvana, Montell Jordan, TLC, No Doubt, and so many awesome 90s songs.

On Sunday morning, we slept in, and then I made Pancakes and Vegan Sausage for brunch! I added fresh, local berries from Curb Market to mine, but Paul likes his pancakes plain. I had Hilary's Eat Well Apple Maple Sausage, and Paul went with Gimme Lean.

We smothered our pancakes in Miyoko's VeganButter and maple syrup. Served with mimosas, of course.

After brunch, we headed out to the new IKEA because Paul hadn't been yet. We spent a good hour in the store, pretending we were shopping to remodel our house. Of course we're not actually remodeling, but it's fun to pretend. We sat on all the couches and laid on all then beds.

Next, we rented the new Batman Lego movie and had some snacks at home. And then it was time for dinner! We both LOVE ramen noodles more than just about anything, so we went to the Lucky Cat Ramen pop-up.

Lucky Cat started as a pop-up in bars and breweries, and they've since graduated to a semi-permanent location at Peabody and Cooper (next door to Cafe 1912). In the fall, they'll be opening a permanent place in Crosstown Concourse (where I work, yay!). They always offer a veg option, and last night, that was Yuzu Veggie Ramen with charred corn, enoki mushrooms, and shishito peppers. So good! I cleaned my bowl.

Lucky Cat doesn't have a beer or alcohol license, but you can BYOB without a corkage fee. We brought a bottle of Chalkboard pinot grigio. This is such a smooth, easy-drinking wine, and it paired well with ramen.

Paul and I met over a game of pool at Newby's beer bust night 13 years ago. Newby's is a college bar, and we rarely go there these days (we weren't in college then either, but we were much younger — in our early 20s). But we have a tradition of ending every anniversary night with a drink at Newby's, so we're there at least once a year.

We had a couple of shots and some local beers, and then we played a game of pool before heading home for the night.

Love this guy! I'm so glad we've been together for 13 years, and I look forward to many, many more.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Solstice with The New Vegan

Yesterday was the first day of summer, my very favorite season. I love 90-degree days and sticky, Southern humidity. I love tank tops, short shorts, and flip-flops. I love juicy, red tomatoes and sweet, sweet watermelon (with lots of salt, of course). This is my time.

I celebrated the Solstice with a fresh, light meal made with seasonal produce acquired from the new Curb Market — a local produce market just a couple blocks from my house. The recipes came from The New Vegan, the latest book by Pea Soup blogger/actress Aine Carlin.

Much like Aine's first book, Keep It Vegan, this new cookbook is stunning. Nearly every recipe is accompanied by a full-color photograph of a rustically styled dish that looks almost too gorgeous to eat. The book is printed on heavy, matte paper that makes it feel even more special. Aine relies on fresh, seasonal produce to create her dishes, which tend to be veggie-heavy. You won't find any faux meats called for in this book, and there really aren't even many dishes with tofu (just a handful). She really focuses on the magic of vegetables for the main courses.

For Solstice, I chose to make her Scandinavian-Style Open Sandwiches, using the recipe for Tomato, Easy Cashew Cheese, & Red Onion. 

The open sandwiches recipe provides several topping options. There's a beet/minted pea and a pickled cucumber/cannellini bean as well, but this tomato one just screamed summer since tomatoes are FINALLY in season down here. The cashew cheese base is super simple — just a basic cashew cheese spread made in the blender and then mixed with chopped, fresh chives (from my garden). It's topped with fresh tomato slices, thinly sliced red onion, and capers and served on toasted rye.

On the side, I made Crunchy Broccoli & Carrot Salad with Ginger Garlic Dressing.

I used fresh, local broccoli and carrots for this. The recipe didn't call for steaming the broccoli, but I don't like raw broccoli, so I lightly steamed it first. That's mixed with grated carrot, toasted almonds, cilantro, and an easy ginger-garlic vinaigrette. I cut the oil way back in the vinaigrette from 2 tablespoons to a 1/2 tablespoon, just because I prefer less oil. I loved the crunchy veggies marinated in this super-garlicky, spicy ginger dressing. The toasted almonds really brought it all together.

Aine's book is divided into chapters on breakfasts, snacks/lunches, easy meals, special meals, and desserts. From the breakfast chapter, I'll definitely be trying the Stovetop Beans with a Twist soon. These are baked beans served on toast, European-style (Aine is from Cornwall). The "twist" refers to the fact that these beans are cooked with Asian flavors, like chile, garlic, and ginger.

I've also got my eye on the Tofu Ricotta Toast and the Thai-Inspired Spiralized Salad (with zucchini and cucumber noodles) from the lunches chapter. The easy meals chapter focuses on weeknight meals with only a few steps, like Tortilla Soup, Green Spinach & Lentil Curry, and Crunchy Cauliflower Couscous, while the special meals are a bit more complicated but totally impressive — think Jerk Cauliflower Steaks and Ceviche-Style Mushrooms. As for desserts, I MUST make Aine's Banoffe Pie soon! It's a gluten-free, healthier version made with a pecan crust, date caramel filling, coconut cream, banana, and dark chocolate.

Happy Summer, y'all!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Munk Packs: Perfect Pre-Run Fuel

Back in 2015, I reviewed Munk Pack's oatmeal fruit squeezes (and provided an update on my old squirrel friend, Herman). At the time, Munk Pack made three flavors, but they've since come out with two more and they sent me those to review.

There's a new Peach Chia Vanilla flavor and a Maple Pear Quinoa flavor. These vegan, non-gmo squeeze packs are filled with a soft, squeezable paste made from gluten-free oats, real fruit, fruit juices, and other good stuff like quinoa and chia seeds.

Each pouch has 90 calories and 20 carbs, making it ideal pre-run fuel for a short morning run, like a 3- to 4-miler. I had both of these new flavors before morning runs this week, and they kept me fueled until I could make it home for a protein smoothie. You see, I wake up at 5 a.m. and only have about 20 minutes before I hit the road for my run, so I need quick, easily digestible carbs. And Munk Packs are PERFECT for that. Plus, they're a nice change from my usual dates or raw fruit/nut bars.

I wish I'd known how perfect these were pre-workout when I reviewed Munk Packs in 2015. Back then, I had them as afternoon snacks, and while they helped satisfy my hunger for awhile, they seem to me to be even better suited for pre-workout.

The peach chia has a strong peach flavor that tastes like summer (by the way, happy first day of summer, y'all -- Summer Solstice meal recap coming tomorrow!), but the maple pear was my fave. I love anything maple flavored, and this reminded me of pancakes topped with sliced pear.

The oatmeal in these packs makes for a lightly chewy texture, but for the most part, the paste is smooth and creamy, like baby food for adults. I haven't seen these sold in stores in Memphis, but you better believe I'd be stocking up if they were. Munk Pack also makes vegan protein cookies, and I'd love to try those one day!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Little Kernel

Mini popcorn is all the rage these days! If you're not familiar, it's exactly what it sounds like — tiny kernels of popcorn. They're about half the size of regular kernels, and that means they're extra tender with a smaller hull. Not only are the mini kernels a bit easier to eat, you're also less likely to get those big hulls stuck in your teeth.

The Little Kernel sent me a bag of their Pink Himalayan Salt mini popcorn to review!

Now I'm a bit of a popcorn freak, y'all. Popcorn is the one food that I have no self-control around. If you give me a bag of popcorn, I won't stop eating until every last kernel is gone. But this stuff is so good, so I've been rationing it out by taking small Tupperware bowls full of it to work with me each day.

Love this stuff! The teensy kernels are super soft, so they're easy on my delicate teeth. I just had an awful root canal, and I still haven't gotten the crown put on, so I have to be careful with my temp filling.

The pink salt flavor is light, not overpowering. Just lightly salted so you don't feel all bloated and weird after you eat a bowl. I tend to over-salt my homemade popcorn, and while it tastes delicious, I always feel gross after I eat all that salt.

The Little Kernel makes several other flavors — a White Cheddar (with non-dairy cheddar flavor!!!), Naked (no salt), Butter (with non-dairy butter!!!), and Sweet & Salty (with brown sugar and sea salt). I love that they use non-dairy flavoring, so the vegans can enjoy everything too! Plus, it's non-gmo and totally gluten-free.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Vegan Tour of Curb Market

Back in September, I left my long-time position as a reporter/editor at the Memphis Flyer for a position in communications for Crosstown Arts, a nonprofit arts organization in my neighborhood that, for the past several years, has been leading an effort to transform the massive, former Sears Crosstown building into Crosstown Concourse, a "vertical urban village" of arts, healthcare, and education organizations, apartments, restaurants, and retail.

The former Sears building, which once served as the regional HQ for the retailer, was a 1.5 million-square-foot blighted, vacant structure. Construction on the revitalization of this 1920s art-deco style building has been underway for a couple years now, and finally, a few places are opening their doors. Last week, the Curb Market opened in the retail area on the bottom floor of this 10-story building, and I was blown away by how vegan-friendly it is!

Curb Market originally opened in Cooper-Young a few years back, but that location closed and moved into Crosstown Concourse. The premise has always been focused on local produce and food products, but this new store is much bigger than the former location. And since it's the only grocery in the building, which, once completed, will host 3,000 people daily (employees, residents of apartments, visitors), Curb added some non-local, frozen foods and pantry staples to make things easier on people looking for a one-stop shop. 

Here's a little tour of some of the vegan goodies I've found! The prices at Curb are slightly higher than a regular grocery store since it's a small boutique grocery, but for anyone who works or lives in the building (or lives down the block, like me!), it will be worth the extra price for the convenience of not having to drive to the Kroger down the street. Plus, Curb has some vegan items that Kroger doesn't carry.

Before we get to the vegan convenience things I found, check out this gorgeous produce. They get as much local produce as they can. I'll never have to go downtown to the farmer's market again!

They also carry lots of locally made foods, like my very favorite thing, Dave's Bagels (all of which are vegan except chocolate chip). You can also get fresh, toasted Dave's Bagels at breakfast at the Curb deli.

They carry Sweet Magnolia Gelato from Clarksdale, Mississippi, and they have a few flavors of sorbet, which are vegan. I bought this Watermelon Cucumber Tomato Sorbet last week. So good! Nice, refreshing watermelon flavor with just a hint of juicy, summer tomato and cooling cucumber.

They carry locally made Grecian Gourmet Pita Chips and hummus. Pictured here are just the chips (with Sabra hummus cause that's what I already had at home). I bought the chips yesterday, and they ARE SO GOOD. They're seasoned with an awesome spice blend that tastes like Cavender's Greek Seasoning (maybe it is?). Best pita chips I've ever had. Will be buying these often.

Not pictured, other local items: Nikki's Hot Ass Bloody Mary Mix (it's vegan!) and Nikki's Hot and Cool Chips, Lydia's Healthy Edibles vegan baked goods, and Replenish Kombucha. And probably way more stuff that I missed.

As for non-local goods, I found Coconut Bliss ice cream, Hilary's vegan sausages (this is something I've not seen anywhere else!), Gardein breakfast pockets, Tofurky hot pockets, Victoria Vegan pasta sauces, Daiya & Hilary's dressings, and Amy's cheeseless pizza. And those are just a few items! There are many more.

I was also impressed with their large nut butter selection! This is a lot of nut butter for a small store. I don't know if I've told y'all, but I'm a bit of a nut butter hoader. I typically have about 10 jars open. I think I'm at 16 jars right now. (Yes, I know I have a problem).

Curb also has a salad bar.

And a hot bar with weekly lunch specials! And the hot bar always has vegan items!

Last week, I got this platter with Lentil Dal, Roasted Potatoes, & Quinoa Asparagus. Everything was so well-seasoned and fresh! I enjoyed this on my lunch break on the patio at Concourse.

And then today, I totally didn't intend to eat at Curb again. But this morning, they posted the lunch menu and it included Vegan Stuffed Peppers! So I had to try them! I got one to go and brought it home to eat with my hummus and pita for lunch. This was stuffed with a rice-lentil blend and topped with a yummy tomato-pepper sauce.

I'm so thrilled to have Curb Market in the neighborhood! I think I've been almost every day since they opened last Wednesday! They'll be seeing a LOT of me there.