Saturday, December 29, 2018

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day Meals and Fun!

I hope you had a lovely Christmas! I sure did. As always, I drove to my hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas on Christmas Eve to spend the night with my parents. When I arrived around 3:30 pm that day, my parents already had Christmas Eve dinner ready! We decided to do a Feliz Navidad theme this year with tacos, chips and guac/salsa, charro beans, and Spanish rice.

Mexican food is my mom's fave, so we think we're gonna keep this going as a new tradition. We've never really done the traditional Christmas meal with casseroles and ham or turkey. We used to always get Chinese takeout, but it's hard to find places open in Jonesboro on Christmas Eve. And then last year, when I was going through my "binge-watching The Sopranos" phase, we did an Italian Christmas Eve dinner. But this was our fave in recent years. Of course, we also had margaritas (with extra shots of tequila!).

After dinner, I got to open my stockings! My dad went on a Vegan Essentials shopping spree and got me a ton of vegan jerky, some vegan ranch corn chips, and caramel corn. And my mom threw in some unicorn chip clips.

Then we watched Merry Friggin' Christmas with Robin Williams and Christmas With the Kranks. Around 9 pm, I headed over to my BFF Sheridan's father-in-law's house to do our annual gift exchange. Sheridan lives in Little Rock but grew up in Jonesboro with me, and we're both always in town for Christmas. Here we are surrounded by our gifts to one another!

One of my Sheridan gifts is always her homemade Vegan Zucchini Bread. It's seriously the best zucchini bread I've ever had, and it just wouldn't be Christmas without it. I had a slice when I woke up on Christmas morning.

That held me over until Mama was done cooking Christmas breakfast, one of my fave meals of the year! We enjoyed breakfasts of Biscuits & Gravy, Tofu Scramble, Seitan Bacon, and Hash Browns. My dad had eggs though, but my mom and I shared the scramble.

After breakfast, it was present time! I got some great gifts — lots of clothes and new jeans, some new boots, two new purses (including this cat bag from ModCloth), new wooden blinds for my living room (!!!), a new cast iron skillet, new coffee press, and more!

Here's my mom with Maynard. She's wearing her new Harley hoodie from Paul. Paul does Christmas with his family in Nashville, but he always sends gifts for my parents. And they send me home with gifts for him.

After we finished up with our gifts, my mom and I drove over to my Me-Maw's house to exchange gifts with her. My Granny was out of town for the holiday, but Me-Maw was here! If you've ever wondered what I'll look like in my 80s, here ya go. I look more like Me-Maw than any other relative.

When we returned from Me-Maw's, my dad had prepared us a veggie snack! He made Roasted Veggie Foil Packets with brussels, sweet potato, white potato, onion, and squash. He's quite the cook!

Shortly after snack time, I drove back to Memphis. I like to get back and get my presents/luggage put up before it gets too late. I have a little Christmas tradition of getting Chinese takeout on Christmas night, so after I got everything put away, I went to Mulan for a pick-up order of Crispy Tofu — dry-fried salt and pepper tofu with hot peppers and veggies. 

Washed down with a Terrapin So Fresh So Green Green IPA in my beloved Memphis AF pint glass. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Vegan Drinks Holiday Wine Party

I totally meant to blog about this yesterday, but I FORGOT!! This holiday break from work has my schedule all messed up (not complaining though), and every day feels like Saturday. And I don't usually blog on Saturdays, so ...

Anyway, here's what I meant to post yesterday. I'll share my holiday eats with the family in a special Saturday post tomorrow (if I remember). Last Saturday (almost a week ago!), we had our third annual Vegan Drinks Holiday Wine Party at Jennifer and Simon's house. Jen & Simon are long-time Vegan Drinks members who are gracious enough to open their house and offer up their wine stash to us every Christmas. It's a potluck, so everyone is supposed to bring a dish and a bottle of wine to share (or whatever other booze or non-booze they want to drink).

Here's Stephanie pouring a glass!

This year, I made Somer's Kick-Ace Vegan Cheeseball (recipe here). I've made this a bunch of times, but it'd been awhile. It's a cashew cheddar ball made with a base of coconut oil. Very good! This time, I used roasted cashews instead of raw because that's what I had on-hand. It made the cheese much nuttier but still delicious. It's rolled in slivered almonds.

I also brought some leftover Vegan Pimento Cheese from the cafe at Crosstown Arts. We had a work party a couple days before, and there was a whole bowl of this left. When everyone was leaving for the holidays, I grabbed it from the breakroom fridge so it wouldn't go to waste! Served with whole wheat pita and crudites.

Jen made a Tater Tot Casserole! After Megan brought a tot casserole to our vegan Thanksgiving potluck, we all made a group decision that we should never have a potluck again that doesn't involve tots! This has a gravy with veggies underneath (like a tater tot shepherd's pie).

Autumn brought BBQ Jackfruit and buns to make sandwiches!

Nichelle made the creamiest, dreamiest Caramelized Onion Dip (pictured), and Melissa brought her famous Spinach Dip (but she came a little later, and I failed to take a picture).

Shay is best-known for three things: banana bread, chocolate pumpkin bread, and PIZZA! This time, she brought pizza. Her sauce and crust is always homemade, and it's just perfect.

Stephanie brought Hello Dollies (also known as 7-layer bars) made with a graham crust, coconut, chocolate, and I'm not sure what the other layers are. But they're delicious.

Jennifer made Root Beer Cupcakes from Happy Herbivore, so they were oil-free (except for the frosting). Very good, and I felt good about myself for eating oil-free cakes at a party. 

Nicole made an Oat Berry Crumble using leftover oat berry bars from our cafe at work (Nicole and I work together, and she's the cafe manager). She crumbled the bars and then added some soy nog and baked it. Sounds weird, but it was very, very good.

Plate #1 shot! I failed to take a pic of plate #2 (the dessert plate).

Jen & Simon's dog Riley enjoyed all the company!

And so did their new kitty Bessie. Check out these cat ears that Autumn gifted me for Christmas.

Party shots!

Most everyone drank wine, but a few opted for beer instead. Like Simon, who actually DOES have a British accent.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Winter Solstice Eats!

Hey everyone! I hope y'all had a great Solstice and Christmas! I definitely did. And I've got lots of delicious food photos to share from all the celebrations, so much so that I'm breaking them up into a few days. Tonight, I'll focus on Solstice, which was Friday, Dec. 21. Tomorrow, I'll share pics from our annual Vegan Drinks Holiday Wine Party, and on Friday, I'll share pictures from my Christmas celebration with my parents.

As much as I detest winter, Solstice is one of my favorite holidays. It's a bright spot in a bleak, gray season. And even though it's officially the start of winter and the longest night of the year, it's also the turning point when the nights begin to grow shorter and shorter until — boom — we find ourselves in spring and then glorious, glorious summer.

I like to enjoy winter-themed foods all day on Winter Solstice. I started my morning with a bootcamp class at the gym, followed by this Cocoa Mint Smoothie with banana, cocoa powder, fresh mint, spinach, and walnuts.

Friday was my last day at work for 11 days! Yay for holiday break! But of course that meant that Friday was insanely busy as I tried to wrap things up. So I packed an easy lunch to eat at my desk. In keeping with my winter theme, I wanted something white to symbolize the snow that never really happens in Memphis. I had Explore Cuisine Mung Bean & Edamame Fettucine with Victoria Vegan Alfredo and Steamed Broccoli & Mushrooms. Such an easy, quick meal to pack! And that while that VV alfredo sauce is totally a convenience food, it's a pretty healthy one made from whole foods (mostly cashews!).

On Solstice night, I always light candles in every room to symbolize the return of the Sun. And I like to feast on seasonal foods. I made one of my Solstice standards — the Baked Spaghetti Squash from Cooking By the Seasons (an old vegetarian witchy cookbook). The squash is tossed with a homemade tomato sauce made by cooking down roma tomatoes with fresh herbs and garlic. I topped it with bits of garlic soy cheeze that I picked up at The BE-Hive in Nashville, plus garlic toast and a side salad.

After dinner, I had some wine and a Santa Baby Cupcake from Muddy's Bake Shop (chocolate with peppermint frosting), but sadly, I failed to take a picture of dessert! 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Stuff I Ate

As we head into the holiday weekend (YAY!), I'm really trying to find balance between healthy foods and indulgent meals. There's no way I'm avoiding holiday sweets and vacation eats, but not every meal has to be indulgent. So I'm finding balance with big salads and bowls.

I've been eating a lot of Big Ass Salads lately, mostly with an easy tahini-acv dressing. Last week, I had this salad with a slice of Sprouted Grain Toast with Deviled Tofu Spread (leftover from my Vegan Corner guest segment on the Chris Vernon Show).

Here's a super-delicious bowl I made this week — Peanut Coconut Tofu Bowls! This has air-fried tofu, sauteed broccoli, bell pepper, mushrooms, and onions, quinoa, and a bottled peanut coconut sauce.

Okay, here are a few not-as-healthy meals! I took Monday morning off work since I'd been in Nashville all weekend. I really enjoy having a day to get my chores done and get myself prepped for the week. So I slept in and enjoyed a bowl of Koyo Baked Ramen with Tofu & Veggies.

And here's a sad one: As I've mentioned before, Fuel Cafe — where my friend Don bakes the best vegan pizza in town — is closing on Dec. 22. I'm so bummed about it! I met Susan and Pam there on Tuesday night for one last meal. I got the Brussels & Shiitake Pizza with cashew cream, brussels, smoked shiitakes (they taste like bacon), fresh dill, and fresh tarragon.

Tonight, we had a shower at work for a couple of co-workers who are having a baby. Our cafe at Crosstown Arts provided some snacks — Vegan Pimento Cheese and homemade Salt & Vinegar Chips. Plus, we had vegan cupcakes from Muddy's Bake Shop (not pictured - the vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting that I ate).

After all those snacks, I was craving something green! I met my friends Andy and Mike at our cafe after the shower to exchange holiday gifts. They ordered chicken fried tofu and an Impossible burger, but I opted for the daily special salad — Quinoa Tofu Crunch Salad. This had nut-crusted tofu, black beans, red onion, quinoa, and a vinaigrette. Here's the IG story pic I posted for the cafe's Instagram earlier in the day (hey, y'all should follow the cafe at Crosstown Arts on IG! I post pics and stories there!).

Happy Holidays, y'all!! I'll back in soon with holiday food pics.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Vegan Weekend in Nashville

I spent last weekend in Nashville eating (and drinking) all the vegan things! Paul works in Nashville and wanted me to attend his work holiday party. So I headed over on Friday afternoon and stayed through Sunday night.

When I arrived on Friday, Paul was still at work. So I made a stop at Avo for a lovely, fancy dinner with myself. I had the Kale Caesar, Mac & Cheese, and a pale ale. Avo has the BEST kale caesar ever with homemade cashew parm, sundried tomatoes, fried chickpeas, and roasted garlic. The mac was gluten-free with made-in-house coconut cheese (and it was on their happy hour snack menu!).

After Paul got off work, we met his friend Collin (pictured) for a flight of beers at Growlers, our fave bar in Hendersonville (the Nashville suburb where Paul lives part-time).

Paul had to work for a few hours on Saturday before his party, so I slept in and then went for a 4-mile run on the Hendersonville Greenway. Yay! I'm running again!

After I showered, I drove into the city for lunch at The BE-Hive — a pop-up deli/vegan butcher. They have the BEST Mozzarella Sticks, made with their homemade coconut cheese.

I ate all of those, plus this gigantic Breakfast Burrito with their house-made seitan sausage, tots, tofu scramble, and vegan queso. Such a big ass lunch but so worth it.

Paul got off work at 5 pm that day, and we headed to our hotel — Loews — in downtown Nashville. The party was there, and we got a room so we could just head upstairs afterward. No driving needed. Good thing because we had a lot of cocktails at the open bar.

The party included one of those catered sit-down dinners. You know, the kind that typically are not vegan-friendly. Everyone around me was served chicken, and I wasn't expecting to be able to eat. Honestly, I was still full from lunch, and I'd already found a Pizza Rev down the street for emergency vegan pizza if needed. But when the server tried to give me a chicken plate, Paul told her I was vegan. And she said, "no problem!" And then she came back with this — Quinoa Burger, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Asparagus and Carrots. AMAZING! It's a new world we're living in folks. Paul tried a bite and said it was much better than the chicken he was served!

The next morning, we met one of Paul's co-workers for brunch at Graze, our favorite vegan brunch spot in Nashville. I got the Breakfast Bowl — a biscuit topped with tofu scramble, veggie sausage, tempeh bacon, and hollandaise. I added avocado!

Graze has $5 bloody marys on Sundays too, so I always have to get one of those!

Graze is located next door to Five Daughters Bakery, which has vegan doughnuts! YAY! I got a Chocolate Peppermint Doughnut to go (and enjoyed it later that afternoon).

Paul and I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody on Sunday afternoon. Afterward, I'd planned to drive home. But I knew I needed to eat one more time before I hit the road. Unfortunately, after all the deliciousness of the weekend, I couldn't imagine eating anything that wasn't green. So I made a little salad from the Kroger salad bar! Just what I needed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Vegan Crunk on Vegan Corner!

Last week, I was invited to be a guest on The Chris Vernon Show — a hugely popular, radio show on the Memphis Grizzlies (our NBA team). As you might expect, most of the show's content is focused on basketball. But they just happen to have a weekly segment called Vegan Corner!

One of the show's hosts, Alexis Morgan, is vegan, and she uses her Vegan Corner segment to highlight local vegan options and host vegan guests. She invited me on to talk about my blog and cookbook, Cookin' Crunk. But I also used this as a chance to promote our cafe at Crosstown Arts, which is plant-based (and mostly vegan!).

Each week, the Vegan Corner guest is asked to bring a dish to share on-air. Last week, my friend Melissa was on the show, and she brought her famous spinach dip. It was a huge hit, so she was a tough act to follow!

I originally suggested I could bring my Tofu Deviled Eggs from Cookin' Crunk, which are made with tofu "egg whites" and a tofu/white bean/black salt yellow filling. But at the last minute, I decided to also bring a selection of vegan pastries baked by Ali in our cafe at Crosstown Arts (where I work in communications).

On air, the hosts tried my tofu deviled eggs, plus Ali's hummingbird cake (banana-pineapple cake with cultured cashew cream cheese frosting), chocolate-raspberry twist danish, berry crumble oat bar, and spiced pineapple hand pie. Everyone loved all of the pastries (especially the hummingbird cake, which they all rated a 10!). And most people liked my tofu deviled eggs, but host Chris Vernon doesn't really like tofu. So I could tell it wasn't his fave, but he was gracious about it! Alexis is the only one on the show who is vegan, so this is great exposure for the hosts (and all those NBA fans who listen!).

We also talked about Crosstown Arts' larger mission to cultivate the creative community in Memphis and our programs and spaces. Such a cool opportunity!!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Pints for Pigs at Imagine Vegan Cafe!

Imagine Vegan Cafe held an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet fundraiser last night for Pigtopia, a new pig sanctuary just outside Memphis. For $20, you got access to a buffet of deliciousness, and 75% of the proceeds went to help rescued pigs. Win-win!

I'm sort of a buffet pro, so I arrived 30 minutes early to score the best seat in the house (the table closest to the buffet). Jennifer, Simon, Megan, and Melissa joined me a little later. As soon as owner Kristie announced the buffet line was open, I jumped up and got the first spot in line. Because I don't play at a buffet. I also always start with TWO plates so I've got plenty of room for a little of everything. Everyone was laughing at my tactics, but they were all wishing they had two plates once theirs were piled so high. Pro tips, y'all. 

There were sooooo many options!

Including our friend Don's homemade tamales in several flavors.

And little vegan cheesecake bites!

And holiday mini cupcakes!

Here's one of my plates. This one has vegan chicken tenders, hush puppies, spinach dip & corn chips, vegan tofu deviled egg, jerk chicken slider with pineapple & mayo, cheezy scalloped potatoes, and cilantro rice.

And here's the other plate — vegan mac & cheeze, buffalo chicken pizza with ranch, carrots, & celery, vegan chicken & jalapeno tamale, chocolate chip cookie, cheesecake bite with caramel sauce, and chocolate cupcake.

Yes, I ate every bite. No, I didn't go back for more, though I really had to fight myself hard not to. I was full — STUFFED, in fact — so I didn't need more food. But I always struggle to stop eating at a buffet. I'm proud of myself! Also, as the name of the event — Pints for Pigs — implies, there was beer available, and I'd usually be all about that. But I figured beer would fill me up too fast, and I needed that valuable tummy real estate for my food!

The folks from Pigtopia were there. Imagine held a silent auction for them, and Pigtopia sold merch.

And y'all, THEY BROUGHT A PIGGIE! This is Reece's Pieces. He grunts a lot and LOVED the attention. 

But his favorite thing was the free corn chips provided by Imagine's youngest employee, Aspen. 

Anna, who runs Pigtopia, currently has 24 rescue pigs! Here's a little more on what they do (from their website): Pigtopia is a happy safe place for unwanted, abandoned and neglected pigs. They're are a registered 501c3 non profit, and all donations are tax deductible.

Currently there are 24 pigs there, ranging from one year to several years old, with potbellies and big pigs in the mix. Some are permanent residents, and some are available for adoption to the very best, well-screened homes. Every pig that lives there is spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted litters. You can read more and donate (or meet the piggies) on their website. This was the first I'd heard of Pigtopia, and I'm so excited to learn about it!