Thursday, August 31, 2017

More Stuff I Ate

I should call this one "stuff I ate: Crosstown edition," because most of the meal pics I'm sharing today were meals purchased in Crosstown Concourse (the amazing urban village my little world revolves around).

Last Friday, I stopped by French Truck Coffee in Crosstown Concourse for lunch. They don't have a ton of vegan food options, but there are a couple things, like this amazing Avocado Toast! It's served on toasted focaccia bread and it's topped with pickled onions and tomato. Just perfect.

Of course, avo toast isn't enough for a lunch, so I grabbed a side of veggies from the Curb Market hot bar (Curb is the grocery store inside Crosstown Concourse). On Friday, they had Ratatouille, Sauteed Squash & Cauliflower, and Roasted Garlic Potatoes, so I combined all of those.

I work out at two different gyms. One is Envision Memphis, which is located downtown, but I also hit up the Church Health YMCA in Concourse a few times a week. Last Thursday morning, I did a hill run workout on the treadmill since we don't have actual hills in Memphis to train on. After my run, I popped over to Juice Bar (just downstairs from the Y) for this Coffee Janet Smoothie (banana, cacao, almond butter, almond milk, coffee, and vegan protein powder).

Another quick lunch from Curb Market! They have Vegan Caesar Salads (the dressing is made with silken tofu) in the grab and go case. And they had Gazpacho as the soup of the day.

MEMPopS just opened in Concourse a couple weekends ago. It's a craft ice pop shop, and they have the best fruit pops. They've been around in Memphis for a few years with a food truck and ice pop stands at festivals. But it's awesome having a permanent location near my office! I got this Hibiscus Lemonade Pop last week.

Okay, that's all for the Concourse eats. But here's another meal from my Crosstown neighborhood. I had brunch with my bitches on Sunday at Midtown Crossing Grill. Got the Vegan Waffle with Agave Strawberries and a side of Vegan Sausage. Plus, not pictured, a vegan bloody mary!

Here's a post-run smoothie, made at home. Blueberries, banana, Vega Protein & Greens Coconut Almond Protein Powder, almond milk, and coconut cream.

I typically have protein smoothies or protein waffles after my runs, but on Tuesday, I wasn't feeling a sweet breakfast. While on my run, I dreamed up this Savory Eggy Tofu Bowl with I Heart Keenwah toasted quinoa hot cereal, nooch, tofu slices cooked in Vegg yolk, avocado, tomato, hemp hearts, and hot sauce. SO GOOD. Will be making this again!

And lastly, here's a burger I ate — Lightlife Black Bean Burger with Chao Cheese, side of Airfried Sweet Potatoes.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Stuff I Ate

I've been eating lots of fun meals in between my cookbook reviewing and product testing. Here's a handful of randomness.

Had some leftover whole grain spaghetti from a recent spaghetti night (more on that soon!), and I had some about-to-go-bad veggies that needed using, so I sauteed kale, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and bell peppers and tossed with cooked pasta, olive oil, hemp hearts, and nooch. Pasta Primavera!

And I had leftover mashed potatoes and gravy from our Buffalo Tofu Bowls (reviewed here). One night, I poured that gravy all over a Boca Chick'n Patty, Toasted Quinoa, Mashed Potatoes, & Kale for a quick dinner.

And on Monday, I finally finished the gravy off with some leftover Mexican-Spiced Lentils (from Frugal Vegan), Coconut Sour Cream (from an upcoming review of Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking), Mashed Potatoes, and Kale.

Here's a quick work-day lunch at home — Sauteed Veggie & Hummus Sandwich with airfried Alexia Yukon Gold Fries. I think the veggies were squash, mushrooms, and onions. Maybe?? Can't remember!

I'm back on the Dave's Bagels for breakfast. Been eating some of his Whole Wheat Bagels with vegan cream cheese and pepper jelly and some with hummus.

A quick pre-yoga snack of Good Karma Strawberry Flax Yogurt with Coconut Cashew Granola. I spy Maynard in the background!

A pre-5K bowl of Oats with with Blueberries & Nuttzo Peanut Pro Nut Butter. The oats were the Pacific steel cut oats that come already cooked and stored in an aseptic package. They were pre-seasoned with almond butter and flax, and they're so good.

Here's a post-run Lenny & Larry's protein cookie. Snickerdoodle! 16 grams of protein!

And finally, it wouldn't be a Stuff I Ate post without a FitQuick protein waffle. Here's a Double Chocolate Brownie Waffle with Maple & Blueberries, side of Lightlife Smart Bacon.

More coming at ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Relax with Tart Cherry Juice

I've always been a sound sleeper who tends to crash the minute my head hits the pillow. But the older I get, the more sensitive I'm becoming to caffeine and other natural stimulants, like electronics or chocolate. If I'm not careful, I can easily take in caffeine too late or spend too much time on my phone before bed and have trouble falling asleep.

So I was eager to try Cheribundi's new Relax Tart Cherry Juice. This drink contains l-theanine (an amino acid that neutralizes the effects of caffeine) and valerian root (an herb that promotes sedation by increasing the brain's GABA levels).

I had this before bed the night before last. I was reading a book as I drank my juice, and I swear that by the time I'd reached the end of the bottle, I could feel a noticeable difference in my energy level. I was tired! Valerian root has always done the trick for me, so I wasn't terribly surprised.

Paul gave it a try too. He's always had a harder time falling asleep than I have, and he said he noticed it worked for him as well.

Last night, I decided to mix it up a bit by combining my Relax juice with my homemade kombucha for a Cherry-Booch Mocktail.

This was so good! It had the tartness of cherries with the tanginess of booch. And once again, it succeeded in making me very sleepy. Paul and I were watching TV as I enjoyed this mocktail last night, and I was starting to nod off on the couch.

To make the mocktail, simply combine four ounces of Relax Tart Cherry Juice with four ounces of any flavor kombucha. I made two of these so I could use the whole bottle of cherry juice for maximum effect.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Mama Gaia's Second Location in Ballet Memphis!

Mama Gaia, a locally owned, all-organic, vegetarian restaurant, opened its first location in Crosstown Concourse back in the spring, and they've already expanded to a second location! That new location just opened for business this past weekend inside the new Ballet Memphis studio in Overton Square. Lucky for me, both locations are in Midtown, so no matter where I am in the neighborhood, there's always a Mama Gaia nearby.

They had their VIP opening party last Thursday, and Susan and I dropped by. The new space is situated in a state-of-art ballet center with super-modern architecture. Love all the natural light!

One major thing sets this new Mama Gaia apart from the Crosstown Concourse location — booze! This location stays open later, and it's located in the heart of Midtown's Overton Square entertainment district, so they serve organic cocktails, beers, and wines. At the opening party, I ordered the Crosstown Cooler (named after Mama Gaia's original location). This has 360 brand organic vodka, fresh-pressed organic cucumber juice, fresh organic lime juice, organic agave, and locally grown organic mint.

Susan got the Allegro also made with organic 360 vodka and organic OJ, lemon juice, berry puree, and agave.

They had bite-size samples of some of their dishes, like spoons of my very favorite menu item — the Asia Tofu. This sesame-crusted tofu is served in either a pita or on a salad with a vegan white sauce and Asian slaw. So good!

And they had small samples of the Copia Bowl with quinoa and roasted veggies. YUM.

There was also a giant vat of their amazing hummus. I could seriously just bathe in this stuff. It's so good.

Of course, they had dessert! These Carrot Cake Balls are made with dates and coconut, so they're super good for you even though they taste like a decadent dessert.

The menu at the new Ballet Memphis location is slightly different. Besides the addition of cocktails, they also have a few new items, like the quinoa dippers, a few new pita pizzas, and the Asia Bowl (with the above-mentioned tofu in a bowl - Crosstown location only has this as a salad or sandwich). There are also a few more pita sandwich options in Crosstown than at Ballet Memphis. Also, Ballet Memphis has a grab-and-go section.

One of the most exciting things I learned at that party last Thursday is that Mama Gaia has now added vegan cheese in both locations! You can get their petitzzas (pita pizzas) with vegan or dairy cheese now. Previously, they were only available with dairy cheese. I had to give this a try! So Paul and I stopped by Mama Gaia's new Ballet Memphis location (because booze!) for dinner tonight. I got the Copia Petitzza with vegan cheese, oven-roasted eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and leeks with olive-basil sauce and fresh basil.

I'm such a bread-aholic, and Mama Gaia has the best pita in town. That soft, fluffy pita is topped with a rich basil sauce and a generous portion of roasted veggies. The vegan cheese was perfect. So glad to be able to have this pizza form! I also love that the pita pizzas are smaller, so you can eat the whole thing AND a side and feel just right.

I also ordered some Quinoa Dippers with Red Sauce & Vegan Dijonaise on the side. This is a new menu item at Ballet Memphis, and they were so fun to eat. I love anything that involves a dip. Wish they'd add this to the menu in Crosstown!

Most importantly though, I was able to enjoy a glass of red wine with my meal. Today was National Red Wine Day after all!

I love both Mama Gaia locations, and it makes my heart so happy to see a vegetarian/vegan restaurant thriving and expanding in Memphis so quickly!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Don & Kenzie's Housewarming Party!

This is Don and Kenzie. They just bought their first house, so this past Saturday, they had a housewarming party.

Don is an amazing cook, and his specialties are aged cashew cheeses, sourdough breads, and various fermented foods. I knew to save my appetite for what I expected to be an impressive appetizer spread, and I was right! We were greeted by a table packed with breads, cheeses, pickles, and various salads.

There were two kinds of cashew cheese — an herbed log of white cheese and some smoky cashew cheddar.

Plus, sourdough slices, purple hull pea dip, and pickles made from squash, cucumber, onion, peach, and purple cabbage.

Don used his sourdough to make tiny slider buns for these BBQ mushroom sliders.

And he used some sourdough in this fantastic panzanella salad.

There was also a yummy smoked eggplant dip, a buckwheat soba salad, and a fresh tomato-basil pasta salad.

I made a big ole plate! But I saved some room for dessert. Kristie, the owner of Imagine Vegan Cafe, brought one of her famous Oreo cakes. There's a layer of chocolate cake, a layer of buttercream, more chocolate cake, more buttercream, and a thick ganache. It's so very sweet, and I probably cut too large a slice. But I enjoyed every bite.

I was super-excited to finally meet Don and Kenzie's neighbor, Tim. He's a cute kid who lives across the street and spends much of his time hanging with Kenzie. I've heard lots of Tim stories, and he certainly lived up to his gregarious reputation. At one point, he put his hand on the shoulder of our British friend Simon and said, "Man, speak a little British for me." Simon informed Tim that Brits speak English, and Tim looked so disappointed. So, in his best British accent, Simon said, "Would you like a cup of tea?" And Tim's face lit up! Ha! He was so impressed. Later, he let me take a few selfies with him. 

I was also stoked to finally meet Lulu. I'd only seen pics of her on Instagram. That underbite!

Here are Simon and Jennifer with Paul on the porch.

And here's Paul and I (and my giant cup of Ghost River from their keg).

Congrats on the new house, Don & Kenzie! And thanks for feeding us bread and cheese. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Next Door American Eatery

I feel like Crosstown Concourse is just about the only thing I blog about these days, but it's where I work (and a few blocks from where I live) and so my little world pretty much revolves around this amazing one-million-square-foot vertical village of awesomeness. And maybe I'm biased (I do the social media for Concourse and Crosstown Arts), but it's the coolest thing happening in Memphis right now. You can read more about the Concourse project here.

But long story short, this formerly long-vacant Sears headquarters is being revitalized into an amazing hub of arts, education, healthcare, residential, and retail. New restaurants have been opening in the building almost every week lately with the latest opening — Next Door American Eatery — planed for this coming Tuesday.

Next Door is the casual sister restaurant to The Kitchen, restaurateur Kimbal Musk's chain that specializes in real food sourced from American farmers. We have a Kitchen restaurant in Shelby Farms out east, but I've never been there because it's so far out from where I live. I did, however, have the pleasure of visiting Next Door's soft opening twice today!

A co-worker and I met up with Next Door's marketing manager there for a working lunch. We started with a few appetizers, including these Garlic Smashers. These smashed fingerling potatoes normally come with parmesan and garlic butter, but they're happy to make them vegan. Just ask for "salt and pepper smashers" and request olive oil. Perfect with ketchup!

For my lunch entree, I ordered the Roasted Veggie Bowl. This was an explosion of magic in my mouth, y'all. Roasted cauliflower, broccolini, mushrooms, and red pepper top a bed of red quinoa. It's sprinkled with sunflower seeds and drizzled with cilantro tahini sauce. I will be ordering this again and again.

Next Door has a few clearly marked vegan options, and some of their vegetarian options can easily be made vegan if you ask the server to leave off the cheese or aioli. If you're looking at their online menu, you can even select "vegan" or "vegetarian," and it will only show you the options you can eat! How cool is that?

I went back to Next Door for dinner with Paul this evening. This time, we started with the Kale Chips. These are vegan by default. They're crispy, highly addictive, salty kale chips, and I probably ate about three-fourths of this plate on my own. Paul liked them (a big step for him!), but I'm the kale-aholic, so I could have finished this plate off.

But I knew I had to save room for dinner. I went with the Veggie Tacos. These aren't naturally vegan, but they're happy to leave the aioli sauce off the slaw as well as the crema topping. These tacos were stuffed with an olive oil cabbage slaw, mushrooms, corn, and pico. So light and delicious.

There's also a vegan roasted veggie salad, which can be served with added hummus. Plus, there's a hummus and flatbread appetizer, and the Thai butternut squash soup is vegan.

Next Door will soon have a full bar (waiting on a state license), but for now, they only serve beer. Thankfully, they have a nice selection of local brews. I had a Wiseacre Ananda IPA, and Paul went with the Memphis Made Fireside.

Their invite-only soft opening continues through the weekend, but Next Door will be open to the public on Tuesday, August 29! Next Door is located at 1350 Concourse Ave. (inside Crosstown Concourse, near the Central Atrium), Suite 165.