Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cookbook Review: Plant-Based Meats

I've gravitated more toward a whole food-based diet over the past couple years, but if you knew me back in the day, I was a diehard "plant meat & potatoes" kinda vegan. I ate lots of vegan meat substitutes, both storebought and homemade. I still love that stuff, but in my efforts to work more beans and veggies into my diet, plant meats have taken a bit of a backseat.

That said, I LOVE the stuff. And a few nights a week, I like to live it up with homemade seitan meats or delicious vegan meaty dishes from my favorite restaurant, Imagine Vegan Cafe. Of course, making the meats at home is best (and the healthiest way). And there's a new cookbook — Plant-Based Meats: Hearty, High-Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians, and Curious Carnivores — that covers the art of homemade plant-based sausages, meatballs, ribs, jerky, burgers, roasts, and more.

This new book by Robin Asbell features both seitan-based, homemade meats, as well as more whole foods-based options (like meats made from walnuts, tofu, or mushrooms). There's a chapter for just about every type of meat you can imagine. The Basic Meats chapter gives instructions for how to make a few plant meats, such as beef seitan, vegan chicken breasts, and vegan ham, that are used in many recipes.

I chose to try a few recipes, including this one for Moroccan Merguez Tagine. This traditional tagine is made with sweet potatoes, chickpeas, spinach, diced tomatoes, and a fragrant bouquet of spices, like cinnamon and coriander.

But the star ingredient is Moroccan Merguez, a seitan sausage spiced with harissa and flecked with bits of white potato (to mimic the look of fat). Wouldn't this be beautiful on a charcuterie board with vegan cheese and crackers?! I have some leftover sausages that I'll probably use for just that!

Loved the tagine! The spice combo was amazing, and the chewy, meaty seitan sausage really stepped it up.

I also tried the more whole foods-y Walnut-Cauliflower Ground Beef for tacos! This ground beef sub is made with minced walnuts and riced cauliflower and seasoned with oregano, chipotle powder, and smoked salt. I can't remember the last time I had a better taco than this. Seriously.

There are so many more recipes I want to try — Cantonese Honey-Glazed Lemon Chicken (with vegan honee and seitan chicken breasts), Jamaican Curried Greens with Jerk Chicken, Smoky King Trumpet Mushroom Bacon (on a BLT, obvi), Pomegranate Glazed Wings (on bamboo party forks to mimic bones!!), and the Savory Miso Roast with Gravy (a seitan roast for the holidays).

If you love vegan meats, you've got to check this book out. It's definitely the most comprehensive guide to vegan meats I've seen to date!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Burritos! Bagels! Buns!

Last Sunday was the last Lulu's pop-up brunch for the forseeable future. They're going on a bit of a pop-up hiatus (although I hear there may be one more pizza pop-up in the near future). So of course my brunch friends and I had to go to this last one. It had a Mexican theme with nachos, tacos, and burritos. But most everyone at the table (except for Anthony) ordered the Breakfast Burritos because you got two! These were stuffed with tofu scramble, cumin roasted potatoes, and blackeyed pea chorizo and topped with red sauce and cashew queso.

Lulu's will still be at the Cooper-Young Farmer's Market most weeks though, and they're expanding to the downtown market too! Last Saturday, I stopped by the CY Market and got one of their Smoked Carrot Bacon & Cashew Cheddar Buns to eat for breakfast on Sunday. My fave!

Speaking of Lulu's, I used some of the Cashew Coffee Cream Cheese I bought last week to top these Almond Butter Banana Pancakes (from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook). I made the pancakes a couple weekends back and froze the leftovers. They made an excellent breakfast on Friday morning with the cream cheese.

I also spread some of that cream cheese on these Blueberry Bagels from Dave's Bagels (also from the CY Market) before my Saturday long run of 18 miles. Nothing powers me through a long run like a white bread bagel! They stay with me longer and don't cause digestive issues. 

Last bagel pic/last of the cream cheese. For Monday's breakfast, I had a Dave's Whole Wheat Bagel with Cashew Coffee Cream Cheese and Mixed Berry Jam. I made the jam on the stovetop by cooking down a half-cup of frozen mixed berries with a tad bit of water and a teaspoon of agave. Yum!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

JUST Vegan Egg!

The long-awaited JUST vegan egg is finally making its way to stores across the country! We finally got the liquid vegan egg mix at our Sprouts stores in Memphis a couple weeks ago, and I learned about it on Facebook. So of course, I immediately drove out to Sprouts after work, only to find an empty shelf where JUST Egg had been. Clearly, people are very excited.

But last weekend, when I went grocery shopping, the JUST Egg was back in stock! I've been having fun with it ever since.

JUST Egg is a liquid made with mung bean protein isolate, and it cooks up just like scrambled eggs. Sure, it's a highly processed food, which I try not to eat too often. But if I had to pick one non-vegan food that I miss the most, it's eggs. Tofu scramble is great most of the time, but it's nice to have something that more closely mimics the texture and taste of eggs.

I'm a big fan of Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg, which cooks up perfectly for fluffy vegan omelets. FYH did change their formula a bit, and it doesn't taste quite as good as it used to. But I find it can be doctored up pretty easily with black salt and pepper. However, this new JUST Egg needs no doctoring. It tastes JUST LIKE EGGS (or at least how I remember eggs tasting ... haven't had an egg since 2004). And the texture is spot-on.

The bottle says 3 Tbsp of JUST Egg equals one serving (or one egg), so that's what I cooked for my breakfast burrito on my first try. But that cooked down to a teensy little serving, too small even for a burrito filling.

A friend of mine, who has eaten eggs much more recently than me, pointed out that most people don't just eat one egg as a serving. He suggested trying three servings of JUST Egg, so I did that for my brinner plate last night. And it was perfect!

At $8-$9 a bottle, JUST Egg is certainly not economical. Using the 9 Tbsp. I used to get a decent portion took about half the bottle! But JUST Egg would be a great thing to have around as an occasional treat. They'd also be perfect in a recipe that calls for eggs in lesser amounts, like say a vegetable fried rice with a little scrambled egg.

For omelets, I'll stick to FYH Vegan Egg because it cooks up fluffier and is less likely to stick to the pan. I'm so glad vegans now have multiple options for vegan eggs!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Banh Mi! Vegan Pastries! Savory Bread!

Monday night is $3 draft pint night at Midtown Crossing Grill, my Crosstown neighborhood bar/pizza parlor, and I'm there many Mondays enjoying cheap booze. Last Monday, Paul and I grabbed dinner there, as well as beer. It'd been too long since I'd ordered my namesake sandwich, the Bianca Banh Mi (tofu, hummus, pickled veggies, cucumber on baguette) with a side salad. I always order the wasabi vinaigrette because it's amazing.

Last week, our baker at the cafe at Crosstown Arts (where I work) made a Vegan Basil-Pesto Twist Bread with vegan mozzarella stuffed inside. 

I had to try it, so I ordered a bowl of the soup du jour — Sumac-Spiced Red Lentil Soup — to enjoy with it. The soup was topped with vegan tazatziki. So creamy! And perfect for this chilly (but warming!) spring weather.

Last week was really just a storm of pastries for me. I had more dessert in a week than one should have in a month, including a (not pictured in this post) carrot cake and lemon hand pie on Ostara. I also had one of these amazing Chocolate Pecan Twist Buns with Vegan Cream Cheese from Crosstown Arts. 

And I grabbed one of these Guava-Pineapple Hand Pies from Crosstown Arts on Friday to enjoy after my Saturday long run. This was a real treat after running 18 miles!

Needless to say, this week will be filled with whole foods and far less sugar!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Vegan Eggy Eats for Spring!

Yesterday was the first day of Spring, and I couldn't be more thrilled! I hate winter with a passion. I hate being cold. I hate having dry skin. I hate wearing layers and shoes with socks. I hate dead plants. But Spring is here, and that means green plants and warmer weather and supple skin and — most importantly — tee-shirts, shorty-shorts, flats, and tank tops. Oh, and brunching on patios (the ultimate Spring experience).

The Spring Equinox is also known as Ostara, and traditionally, eggs are eaten to celebrate the Earth's fertility (hence the Easter tradition with dyed eggs). So every year on Ostara, I center my meals around vegan eggs. Yesterday for lunch, I tried the Just for All Egg (finally found it for sale in Memphis!) in a Breakfast Burrito.

I'll do a full post on Just Egg soon, but for now I'll just say, this stuff is amazing! It really does taste and look like real eggs. Also in my burrito: roasted potatoes, tempeh bacon, spinach, vegan cheese, and salsa.

After work, my friends Megan and Pam came over for an Ostara ritual and celebration. We enjoyed my Tofu Eggless Olive Salad from Cookin' Crunk on multigrain crackers.

And I made the Classic Kale Salad from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. I love this versatile recipe that suggests different veggie, nut, and dried fruit options. For this version, I used carrots, red cabbage, celery, red onion, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries. Plus, I used springy herbs, like dill, thyme, and tarragon.

Pam brought some Treeline Garlic-Herb Cashew Cheese and wine, so we also had plenty of wine and cheese. For dessert, I grabbed a few springy treats from the cafe at Crosstown Arts for us to split. I got a slice of Carrot-Pineapple Cake.

And a Meyor Lemon Almond Handpie. I cut these into little bite-sized pieces so we could all try them.

After our feast, we did a seed blessing and planted lavender, thyme, and lemon balm infused with our hopes and intentions for the year ahead. And we did Tarot readings! Happy Ostara!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bialy! Pancakes! Tea Cake!

I rarely make pancakes, but I got a craving for some late last week. I finally got my pancake fix on Saturday morning when I made the Almond Butter Banana Pancakes from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. 

These are made with whole wheat pastry flour and almond flour, and almond butter stands in for the fat (so they're mostly oil-free except for a little spray oil on the griddle). They're also refined sugar-free since banana provides sweetness in the batter and maple on top. I added blueberries to my batter because why not?

Later that morning, I stopped by the Lulu's booth at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market and grabbed one of Don's vegan Caramelized Onion & Poppyseed Bialys. This savory bun made the perfect side for a salad at lunch.

Don was also selling tubs of his cultured Cashew Coffee Cream Cheese — a vegan cream cheese made with finely ground coffee. I enjoyed some on a whole wheat Dave's Bagel for breakfast on Monday morning (my workout rest day this week). The cream is very lightly sweetened with a strong coffee flavor. It tasted great and I felt like it gave me an extra boost!

Here's a Savory Oat Bowl from last week! With nooch, spinach, broccoli, avocado, everything bagel seasoning, and sriracha. I'm such a fan of savory oats, especially when topped with ALL THE AVOCADO.

And finally, here's a moist and delicious slice of Mixed Berry Tea Cake from the cafe at Crosstown Arts. I'd brought berries from home as my afternoon snack, and when I saw this tea cake on the counter, I knew it'd be the perfect accompaniment. Enjoyed with Earl Grey tea made in the office Kerig.

Happy Spring, y'all! I'll be back tomorrow with a very vegan-eggy spring foods post!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Upton's Naturals Cheesy Mac

My top five fave foods:
1. Ramen
2. Pizza
3. Doughnuts
4. Tacos/Burritos (I'm counting this as one because I can't decide)
5. Mac & Cheeze

So it goes without saying that I don't let a new vegan mac & cheeze product pass me by. Sure, I love creating a creamy, cheesy whole foods-based pasta at home using nooch, cashews, or butternut squash. But I also love trying the easy packaged versions for those nights when you just don't have time to cook.

Friday night was one of those nights, so I turned to a box of Upton's Natural Cheesy Mac that I'd been holding onto for a few weeks.

I found it for sale at Natural Grocers in Jonesboro, Arkansas (an hour from Memphis, my hometown), and as a fan of all things Upton's, I had to put it in my cart. Memphis readers, we may have this here, but I haven't looked!

This shelf-stable mac comes in a box with a vacuum-sealed bag of pre-cooked, wide-noodle elbow mac and a pouch of liquid cheese (similar to the pouch in the boxed Daiya mac). The cheese is made from nutritional yeast, rice bran oil, sea salt, cornstarch, mustard, onion, garlic, paprika, turmeric, sugar. So while this may not be the most whole food (hey there, white pasta), it's not bad! The sauce is made with minimal ingredients, and they're all real foods.

To prepare, you simply dump the pasta and cheese in a pan and heat. Takes about two minutes. The result is a creamy, noochy pasta that made a perfect side for my Gardein crispy tenders and agave-mustard dipping sauce (told ya it was a busy night) and some steamed broccoli with tahini sauce.

Will I buy this again? You bet!

Monday, March 18, 2019

St. Patrick's Day Fun!

St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays! I've got a little Irish in my family lineage, as well as Scottish and German, so drinking booze is something I'm pretty good at. ;-) Plus, I love any excuse to wear green and eat green foods.

My St. Pat's celebration started on Thursday night with the annual Breakaway Running St. Pat's Pub Run, my favorite running tradition. This fun run starts at Breakaway Running (my local running store) in Overton Square and runs to bars/breweries Hammer & Ale, Memphis Made Brewing Co., Railgarten, and Slider Inn. Megan and Misti joined me! So much fun.

The highlight for me was probably the chance to try the new Sam Adams 26.2 Marathon Brew at Hammer & Ale, which they brewed in honor of the Boston Marathon.

On Saturday, I attended the annual St. Patrick's Day parade on Beale with my friend Susan, and then we checked out the Saint Pawtrick's Day soft opening for the new Lucky's Social Club dog park bar (!!!!) downtown. I didn't take any pics on Saturday though.

On Sunday, I woke up early and had some Irish Coffee with Bailey's Almande almondmilk liqueur and a bagel before taking off on a 16-mile long run. It was the first time since my last foot injury that I'd put in that many miles, and it felt great! But I did get a pretty bad sunburn on my face because I forgot to wear sunscreen (because I forgot what sun is since we haven't seen it here in what feels like ages).

After my run, I had a Green Smoothie (natch) with peaches, banana, walnuts, spinach, and vanilla Vega One French Vanilla protein powder.

After my smoothie, we did some vegan Irish car bombs at home with Guinness (so glad it's vegan now!), Bailey's Almande, and Jameson. I realize that "car bombs" as a cocktail name isn't the most PC thing, but I don't know what else to call them! 

Paul and I had plans to bar-hop for St. Patty's Day, but first, I made us some dinner — Vegan Bangers & Mash (with homemade seitan sausages, mashed potatoes, gravy, and peas). We both loved this, and I will be making it again. I had the sausages in the freezer, leftover from a meal a few months back.

After dinner, we headed to Ghost River Brewing Co. to try their limited edition Magic Car Bomb beer, a dark brew with hints of Jameson, vanilla, and Irish cream extract (non-dairy!). 

Next stop was Carolina Watershed, a bar inside an old grain silo with a great outdoor patio space with waterfalls! There, we had the Diamond Bear Irish Red (a brew from neighboring Little Rock, Arkansas).

And finally, we headed back to Crosstown for a nightcap at Art Bar at Crosstown Arts (yes, I hang out at work on my off days). I opted for the very green Six Paths to Sage cocktail with gin, green chartreuse, sage, and lime. Very good! Enjoyed in Art Bar's cat room because it's my fave.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Chickpea Spaghetti! Potato Turnover! Smoothie!

I'm still loving the No Meat Athlete Sauce System, a blog post on their site that includes recipes for five simple sauces and all kinds of ways to use them. Last night, I made the tomato sauce recipe (an easy sauce with canned tomatoes, onion, and garlic), but I added a splash of red wine and a touch of agave to cut the acidity.

Oh, and at the end, I added a can of can of chickpeas. After cooking, I put the whole thing in the Vitamix and blended until creamy, so I ended up with a creamy tomato sauce that sneaks the beans in! No Meat Athlete host Matt mentioned this tip on a recent podcast. He does that to get his kids to eat beans. And though I have no problem eating enough beans, I just liked the idea of a sauce that gets its creaminess from beans instead of plant milk.

Served atop Explore Cuisine's black bean spaghetti with steamed kale on top to make the meal an official bean/grain/green meal!

My post-run smoothie this morning was especially good! I used an orange, a frozen banana, Wyman's Mango Berry frozen fruit blend (with mango, blueberry, and strawberry), baby spinach, raw walnuts, and flax seed. Enjoyed in the giant St. Jude smoothie cup I won for raising money for St. Jude during the run-up to the last St. Jude Marathon.

And finally, here is a thing of beauty — Potato & Broccoli Turnover by our baker at Crosstown Arts! I was trying not to buy dessert at work yesterday, and I succeeded at that. But she also had these savory turnovers, which technically were not dessert so ... 

Those flaky layers! OMG. 

I'm off to enjoy the annual Breakaway Running St. Patrick's Day Pub Run! I'll check in after the weekend with St. Pat's recap. Don't forget your green on Sunday! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bibimbap! BLT!

It seems like all my random meal round-up these days feature food from the cafe at Crosstown Arts (where I work as the communications coordinator), but when there's amazing vegan food right outside your office door, what's a girl to do? Today for lunch, I had the Bibimbap with added tofu (minus the egg).

This is typically served with a fried egg on top. The cafe is not entirely vegan (but I'd say 90% of the items are), but anything can be made vegan. For this, you could simply leave the egg off. Or you can pay a couple extra bucks and add tofu on top! I saw someone post this version on Instagram last week and had to try it.

The bowl is made from fried rice paper, and it's stuffed with pink rice, brussels sprouts, kimchi, and zucchini, plus the most amazing baked tofu.

My breakfast this morning was Overnight Oats with Chia, Walnuts, Berries, & Banana, enjoyed after a core work class at the YMCA. I love having creamy overnight oats prepared to enjoy after my workouts!

And here's my dinner last night — a BLT from Imagine Vegan Cafe. Such a classic. Stuffed with veggie bacon, avocado, tomato, lettuce, and vegan mayo. It's usually served on a white hoagie bun, but I like to sub wheat bread instead. Side of kale.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Banh Mi! Galette! Burrito!

Lulu's Food hosted another vegan pop-up brunch this past Sunday at Fuel Cafe. The theme this time was sandwiches! Don made homemade bagels and did a vegan carrot lox & bagel sandwich thing, and he also made Breakfast Banh Mis. As much as I love a bagel, I cannot resist a banh mi!

Don's homemade baguettes were stuffed with tofu scramble, mushroom pecan pate, harissa, and pickled carrots — all made-in-house. Served with roasted potatoes. Sooooooo good.

But before I ate that around 11:30 am on Sunday, I had this tasty slice of Avocado Toast with a side of fresh berries. First breakfast to tide me over. I topped the toast with sriracha and Spice Hunter Bagel Crunch, a knock-off of TJ's Everything But the Bagel. It's good, but it's salt-free so it's not as good as the original.

I've been eating a lot of Black Bean & Brown Rice Burritos lately! I'm using the oil-free refried black beans from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook (which I made a few weeks ago and froze some) with brown rice and various fillings. This one, enjoyed in the dark yesterday because my power was out (thanks to a transformer blowing up!), has beans and rice, steamed potato, vegan cheddar, salsa, and lettuce. Luckily, when the power goes out, I can still cook on my gas stove. It came back on around 8 pm last night (after being off for 12 hours!).

And I've saved the best for last! Ali, our baker at the cafe at Crosstown Arts, made these amazing Black Sesame & Almond, Mixed Citrus, and Blueberry Galettes this morning. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the sesame seed in there, but I could not resist those flaky layers. And turns out the sesame was a perfect complement to the sweet fruit filling. Was planning to split with a co-worker, but I decided it was too good to share.