Thursday, May 30, 2019

New Dole Vegan Bountiful Salad Kits!

Confession: I love bagged salad. I know it's more economical (and more zero waste) to opt for whole heads of lettuce, but there are few kitchen tasks I hate more than washing lettuce. I hate it so much that I've been known to skip that step and just eat the dirty lettuce right off the head. I'm sure that's not a good idea though, and it often results in me getting a mouthful of grit!

I've come to accept that, if I'm going to get in my daily bowl of fresh greens, it has to be in bagged salad form. Even more convenient is when the salad toppings also come in the bag, but so many salad kits contain cheese or non-vegan dressings. Sure, you can leave some toppings off, but I want the full experience! And now I can get that with Dole's New Vegan Bountiful Kits! There are two new vegan kits in their salad line — Lentil Cucumber and Triple Quinoa. They sent me a few bags to review.

The Lentil Cucumber kit features a salad mix with green leaf, iceberg, red cabbage, and radish, plus a little package of marinated green, black, and red lentils. The dressing is a tangy, cooling cucumber vinaigrette.

The bag says this makes several servings, but I ate the whole bag as one meal! You could dress this up with additional veggies, but I had it as is and it was filling (with a side of pita and hummus).

The Triple Quinoa was my fave! It's a kale salad with a kale-carrot blend, a topping made from red, white, and black quinoa and chickpeas, and a refreshing lemon-basil vinaigrette. I massaged the kale a bit and let it sit overnight, so it was perfect and tender the next day for lunch. Again, I ate the whole bag as one meal.

One tip: I try to limit my oil intake, so I used half of the dressing on both of these salads, and it was PLENTY to add flavor. You could use the whole thing, but I don't think that's necessary.

These salads are GREAT! And I will definitely buy them when I see them in the store. Anything to make my salad-eating habit easier!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Memorial Day Fun & Food!

After I ran the Great American River Run Half-Marathon on Saturday morning, I headed to Nashville to spend Memorial Day weekend with my partner Paul, who works in Nashville.

I got in kinda late, and I'd packed a salad to enjoy when I got there. It was Paul's dad's 80th birthday, so I ate my salad while everyone else had cheese/meat pizza and birthday cake. I was totally okay with that because I'd had a very decadent post-race lunch!

After dinner, Paul's parents decided to let us take over a campsite they'd rented for Memorial Day. They'd parked their RV there the night before and had stayed there (it was only a few miles from their house), but Paul's mom couldn't take the extreme heat. She wanted to stay at their house that night instead, and Paul and I were more than happy to go camping!

We spent the night in the camper and woke up early to go workout — I ran 5 miles while Paul biked (he has a sprained Achilles tendon). After our workout, we met up with Paul's sister Sheila for brunch at Wild Cow in East Nashville!

I got one of my long-time faves — the OG Bowl with added grilled tofu. This is so simple and so delicious with just brown rice, pinto beans, garlic kale, grilled tofu, and garlic aioli. I'm definitely making this at home soon. I had a mimosa too because brunch.

Paul and I went to Koko's Plant-Based Ice Cream after brunch (see the full post here) for the most amazing vegan ice cream! And then it was back to the campsite for another night. We had a lovely walk around Old Hickory Lake.

For dinner, we decided to stay at the site and grill out! We picked up some Sweet Earth Black Bean Burgers and prepared them on the grill. 

Here's my plate — Burger, Salad, and Kettle Chips

I drove home Monday morning, but it was a very lovely trip. Getting to camp for free was a total added bonus. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Koko's Plant-Based Ice Cream!

After my half-marathon on Saturday, I hopped in the car and made the 3-hour drive to Nashville to spend Memorial Day weekend with my partner Paul, who lives there part-time for work. He's home in Memphis most weekends, but his work schedule wouldn't allow him to come home this past weekend. So I went to him.

I'll do a post tomorrow on all of the yummy Memorial Day eats from the weekend. But tonight, I want to talk about one very special place we visited in East Nashville on Sunday afternoon — Koko's Plant-Based Ice Cream!

This is an all-vegan ice cream shop that I just discovered on Instagram about a month ago. It's located next to Avo, my favorite high-raw vegan place, in the OneC1ty development (which is made out of shipping containers). This cute little shop makes all their own creams using a coconut base, and I'm here to tell ya now that THEY ARE AMAZING. They're also nut-free for all y'all folks with allergies.

And they have vegan waffle cones! You get two flavors in a small order, so I opted for Mint Chip and Cookies & Cream.

Paul went with two scoops of Peaches & Cream (packed with real peaches!). Of course I tried some of his too, and it was creamy perfection.

Koko's will definitely be a must-visit for every future trip to Nashville (and now I can't wait to go back). Hey Koko's, come to Memphis and open a shop here!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Great American River Run Half Marathon + Post-Race Eats!

On Saturday, I ran my 7th half-marathon — the Great American River Run in downtown Memphis. This race has only been around for four years — it's the close-out event for the annual Memphis in May International Festival — and I've run it since the beginning. The first two years, I ran the half, and last year, I could only do the 5K because I was coming back from a fractured foot (the first of two fractures last year!).

The course runs through downtown Memphis, including a jaunt down Beale Street, a loooooong slog down Second, a shade-less stretch through Harbor Town, and a victorious spring to the finish down Riverside Drive. It's always pretty hot in Memphis by the end of May, but this year was especially brutal with temps in the high 80s and low 90s for all of the race. And it was super-sunny the whole time with very little shade.

I actually set my half-marathon PR of 2 hours and 33 minutes on this course a couple years back, but that year, it had stormed all morning and was overcast for the whole race — so it wasn't as hot. This year, race officials were warning us to take it slow and not aim for PRs. And I didn't get one, coming in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, quite a bit slower than my best time.

But that was okay! I was just glad to be done! Here's a lovely pre-race pic reppin' my No Meat Athlete tank, before I got all sweaty.

And here's what I looked like at the end. Rough!! This was after pouring lots of water over my head throughout the race. I was soaked with water and sweat.

There wasn't much post-race food left when I was done. But there were a few apples and small bags of pretzels, so I grabbed an apple for immediate post-race carbs and saved the pretzels for later. And I had my celebratory free beer after the race of course!

I didn't hang around the post-race party long though. I headed straight home for a shower, and then I headed straight to the Cooper-Young Farmers Market for Lulu's Baked treats before the market closed. I got the Potato Bialy to eat with a salad for dinner that night, the Strawberry Rosewater Muffin to have as a pre-run snack on Sunday, and the Smoked Carrot Cashew Cheddar Bun to enjoy later in the weekend.

Just down the road from the market is Imagine Vegan Cafe, and I deserved something decadent after that tough race. So I ordered the new Vegan Shrimp Po' Boy and a side of Potato Salad to go. That crispy fried shrimp sandwich (they use Sophie's Kitchen, I believe) with remoulade, lettuce, and pickles hit the spot!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Giveaway: Love & Lemons Every Day Cookbook

I've long been a fan of the Love & Lemons blog. If you want to drool over gorgeously styled photos of whole foods-based vegetarian dishes, this is place! And there are recipes to accompany those photos, so you can re-create those images at home. I have the first Love & Lemons cookbook by Janine Donofrio and Jack Mathews, and now I'm loving the new Love & Lemons Every Day cookbook, a hardcover, full-color compendium of vegetarian and vegan recipes where veggies (and fruits) are the star. 

Months ago, I was shipped two copies of Love & Lemons Every Day — one to review and one to give away. I've finally had a chance to cook from the new book, so I'm ready to share my thoughts and then give a copy to one lucky reader! Instructions for the giveaway are at the end of this post.

One note: This is not a totally vegan cookbook. Some recipes contain dairy and/or eggs, but many are vegan. And those that are vegetarian are very easily veganizable with a few tweaks.

There are chapters for all the courses — breakfast, snacks/starters, soups, salads, dinner, side dishes, desserts, drinks, homemade extras, and sauces/spreads. I started with the breakfast chapter and made this amazing Yellow Squash Turmeric Tofu Scramble.

This isn't your ordinary scramble. It's LOADED with sauteed yellow squash and roasted red pepper, elevating this to next-level. Served with Lulu's city loaf spread with Miyoko's cultured vegan butter, this was a meal I was sad to see end. Am I the only one who gets sad when my plate is empty? The only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that there's another meal a few hours later! Real talk.

I also tried the Soba Noodle Picnic Salad because I'll never tire of salads in jars. They're just so damn convenient for packing as a work lunch. This simple salad has a tahini-miso dressing, red cabbage slaw, carrots, chives, English cucumbers, and cooked soba noodles.

I brought wooden salad bowls to the office and enjoyed this outside (like a real picnic!) in our workplace meditation garden. Seriously, I have the best job!

One of my favorite things about this book are all the tips spread throughout for things like homemade veggie scrap stock or the "giant grid of salad dressings" (a photo-illustrated chart with quick recipes for 16 six-ingredient salad dressings).

Plus, I'm loving recipes like Baked Red Lentil Falafel, Sweet Potato Wedges with Farro & Tahini, Vegan Cauliflower Gratin, Breakfast Banh Mi Sandwiches (this has egg but it could easily be made with tofu or Vegan Egg), Almond Cheese with Herbs de Provence, and Creamy Vegan Lemon Bars. There's even a cocktail chapter with a recipe for a Strawberry, Peach, & Basil Sangria!

Want to win a copy? Just leave a comment below, and be sure to include your email address so I can let you know if you're chosen at random. I'll pick a winner next Tuesday, May 28. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Scones! Sandwiches! Tacos!

Everyone's heard of avocado toast. But what about avocado scones??? I made the Black Pepper Rosemary Scones from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook Sunday night to eat for breakfast this week. The recipe suggests slicing these oil-free (made with tahini for the fat) savory scones in half and topping with mashed avocado and nooch. Perfect breakfast!

I've been on a scone kick lately. Picked up a Sweet Potato Scone with vanilla frosting (baked by my friend Stephanie) at the Lulu's Baked booth at the CY Farmer's Market on Saturday. Also grabbed some yummy Cashew Queso that has been PERFECT with my favorite sweet potato corn chips this week.

Here's my Lulu's haul from last week — City Loaf (which I enjoyed with Miyoko's butter and tofu scramble all week!) and Smoked Asparagus & Shiitake Bun.

I've been eating lots of sandwiches for lunches this past week. Here's one with seitan slices (from Nashville's vegan butcher The BE-Hive — I bought this forever ago and froze it), avo, tomato, and lettuce on whole wheat. Served with chips and cashew queso and salsa.

Last Saturday was my friend Mike's birthday, and he wanted to eat at Frieda's, a Midtown Mexican restaurant. They have a pretty large vegetarian menu, but it's all very cheesy. I've certainly ordered those dishes without cheese before, but nothing on that menu sounded good on Saturday. What I wanted was tacos! And there are no vegetarian tacos there. But they do have a side menu where you can order plain tortillas, black beans, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, and all the fixins — each for $1-$2. I made a build-your-own taco station by ordering sides! I ended up with enough food for 3 tacos (plus lots of chips and salsa and guac) for less than $10! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Vegan Charcuterie Board!

A couple weeks ago, on the day of the New Moon, I invited a few friends over to make vision boards and set New Moon intentions. But you can't have your witches over without a few snacks.

I could have just sat out some vegan cheese, crackers, and wine, and that would have been lovely. But sometimes you just want to go all out for no good reason, and this night was one of those times. So I whipped up this awesome Vegan Charcuterie Board!

There's Miyoko's Smoked Farmhouse Cheddar with olive oil crackers and multi-seed gluten-free rosemary crackers, vegan sausage slices, berry jam, strawberries, grapes, raw pecans, curry cashews, peppadews and pickles, green and kalamata olives, and dried, sweetened orange slices. The sausages were homemade seitan sausages that I'd made for a recipe and frozen the leftovers. I love keeping seitan sausages in the freezer for times like these!

Earlier in the day, when I was telling a co-worker that I was creating a charcuterie board for dinner, she asked, "How can vegans have charcuterie?" Well, this is how! Though a traditional board is made of mostly meat and cheese, you can easily make a vegan board with a few simple ingredients.

  • Vegan cheese (a good aged cashew cheese wheel is best!)
  • Crackers (2-3 kinds)
  • Vegan meats (sliced sausages, vegan pepperonis, and folded vegan deli slices are all good bets)
Great add-ons:
  • Mixed, roasted nuts
  • Pickles
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dried fruit (the Trader Joe's dried orange slices are gorgeous and totally edible)
  • Hummus with veggies/crackers/pita
  • Jams/jellies (plus sliced baguette for serving)

That's it! Just make sure that you have some great wine (or even mediocre wine!) to wash it all down.

I have to share this too. I told the girls I was making a charcuterie board, and Pam wanted to bring something complementary, so she came armed with bread and Miyoko's Cultured Vegan Butter and a bottle of Bread & Butter wine. Clever!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Lucky Cat Ramen, BBQ Tofu, Mini Tacos & More!

My friend Susan and I FINALLY checked out the new Lucky Cat Ramen shop on Broad Avenue. We'd been to their old pop-up location on Cooper several times, but now they're in a permanent place with a beer/liquor license! This was right after Lent, and I'd given up ramen for Lent, so I was VERY excited to be eating the Veggie Yuzu Ramen (made with the best-ever veggie broth). This is served with an egg on top, but they're happy to leave it off on request.

The cafe at Crosstown Arts had a Southern Bowl on the menu last week, so y'all know I had to get that. This had creamy grits topped with black-eyed peas, spinach, and BBQ tofu.

One night last week, I had a meeting after work and needed a super-quick dinner. So I air-fried some Carla Lee's Nut Tacos! I LOVE these mini frozen tacos, which boast a totally whole foods-based nut filling. I stuffed mine with avocado, vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, and salsa. On the side, I seasoned some canned black beans with salsa. Dinner in 15 minutes or less!

Speaking of quick dinners, here's a Tofu Stir-fry from last week that was thrown together in about 15 minutes as well. I marinated tofu the night before and air-fried it while I sauteed some frozen mixed veggies and a little leftover chopped kale. Served over brown rice prepped the night before.

And finally, here's a quick week day lunch at work. I packed some hummus, pita, and raw veggies and made a little pita sandwich. Served with Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato corn chips (my current fave chip) and salsa.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Review: Kumana Avocado Sauce

Avocado is my favorite fruit — by a very long shot. I've never really been much of a fruit-eater until recently when I started drinking daily smoothies and eating fresh fruit for afternoon snacks. But I don't crave fruit; I eat it because it's good for me. Avocado is the exception there. I CRAVE that creamy, fatty goodness. Probably because it's not sweet and is best enjoyed mashed on toast with sea salt or as the base of a guacamole.

I would put avocado on EVERYTHING if I could. But because it turns brown so quickly, it's not terribly convenient or affordable to open an avocado to top every meal. Enter Kumano Foods Avocado Sauce. 

Kumano sent me three bottles to review — Be Original, Be Hot, and Be Mango. This creamy, tangy sauce, which was inspired by a traditional Venezuelan avocado sauce, is made with avocados, onion, cilantro, garlic, and a splash of white vinegar. The original is just that, but the mango has a slight hint of sweet mango. The Be Hot (my personal fave) gets a touch of heat — but just a touch — from habanero.

I've been using this sauce in place of my usual srircaha, and I've found it to be the perfect topper to any meal. Below is a quinoa stir-fry that I topped with Be Mango sauce, but it's also great on pizza, tacos, soups and stews, even tofu scramble! Seriously, any savory dish can benefit from this!

You can see a list of retail shops that carry Kumana sauce here, or you can purchase online at here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Imagine Vegan Cafe is OPEN AGAIN! With New Items!

This post may only be of interest to local readers or those traveling to Memphis soon, but BIG NEWS in the Memphis vegan world — Imagine Vegan Cafe has re-opened after being closed for repairs for over a month.

The past few Imagine-less weeks have been tough! I've missed my vegan mozzarella sticks, vegan soft serve, dairy-free cheesecake, and vegan chicken and waffles dearly. Over a month ago, Imagine had to temporarily close while they dealt with some plumbing issues in their building. Repairs took much longer than expected, but they re-opened this past Monday with a few new menu items.

They've added a Vegan Shrimp Dinner, Vegan Shrimp Po'Boy, and Onion Petals to the menu. The faux shrimp dishes were on an older menu years ago, but they cycled off (much to my partner Paul's dismay — he loved the shrimp dinner!). The picture above is from a 2012 blog post here when shrimp was added to the menu the last time. You get 12 pieces and your choice of two sides. For me, that's typically the vegan mac and steamed broccoli with ranch for dipping.

They've also removed a few items, like the Eggplant Parm, Breakfast Burrito, Portabella Sandwich, Pigs & Blankets, and Green Beans. I'll be sad to see those items go (esp that burrito!!). 

I went to Imagine last night, and I fully intended to order the shrimp because I was excited it was back. But I ran six miles before dinner, and all that running had me craving serious carbs. I couldn't stop thinking about Imagine's homey Spaghetti Dinner, so I got that instead.

Imagine's vegan meaty marinara is slightly sweet, thanks to a touch of agave. In the South, we add sweetness to EVERYTHING. That's how I grew up eating, and that's what I prefer. There is no greater pasta sauce in Memphis than the meaty sauce at Imagine. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Mother's Day Pizza Party!

Mama Crunk is the BEST. I'm seriously so lucky to have such a cool mom. She's the kindest person I know, and she'll go out of her way to help anyone. I know I've mentioned this here before, but when I was in Florida in mid-April, she and my dad house-sat for me and basically made-over my whole house — painting, repairs, deep-cleaning. Just because! 

My mom has always been incredibly social, so she makes friends wherever she goes. Everyone loves her. She's very disciplined, organized, neat, and tidy, but she also likes to party. There's nothing she loves more than a country music concert with her friends. She's basically the full package of awesomeness.

We celebrated her this past Sunday on Mother's Day. Paul and I drove to Arkansas in time for lunch. My dad had prepped a build-your-own pizza station while mama and me-maw were at church. Here's the vegan side!

We each created our own personal pizza using pre-made naan bread as the crust. The naan from Sprouts Farmers Market is vegan! While our pizzas were in the oven, we had salads and beer. 

And here's my pizza — garlic naan topped with vegan sausage crumbles, smoked BBQ tofu (made by my dad in his smoker), bell pepper, jalapeno, mushroom, onion, and black olive. My parents make naan pizzas often, and I'd heard of them. But since vegan naan can be hard to find, I'd never had one. So glad I found the vegan naan at Sprouts! This will definitely become a quick weeknight staple for me.

After we ate lunch, we went to visit my Me-maw and Granny — also amazing moms! So grateful for my family!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Omg! I Met Joey McIntyre! And Ate a Hummus Pita!

Y'ALL. You're never going to believe what happened to me on Friday afternoon. I met freakin' Joey McIntyre from the New Kids on the Block!!!!!! He was in town for the NKOTB Mixtape Tour show that night, which — being the super-fan I am — I had tickets for! Hours before the show, he was just wandering around Crosstown Concourse, the mixed-use building where I work.

Long story short, a co-worker spotted him in the West Retail Corridor (where much of the building's retail is located). She came back to the office and exclaimed, "I think I just saw a New Kid!" And I was all, "NO WAY!" When she described him, I knew it was Joey, my third grade (or was it fourth or fifth grade??) crush! I had worn my New Kids shirt to work, and I crimped my hair (with my vintage 80s crimping iron) before work to make concert prep go faster. So I was fully prepared to face Joey. 

I ran downstairs, and quickly walked to where he'd been spotted. I saw a guy I thought was him sitting a table, writing letters on post-its that he was attaching to books I could tell he'd just purchased at Cheryl Pesce, a gift/jewelry shop at Concourse. But I was too nervous to say anything, so I walked right past him. Right to Cheryl Pesce, where I ran into owner Cheryl. I asked her if that was definitely Joey McIntyre who'd been shopping in her store. She was like "WAS IT???" And then she and I both ran over to where he was. Cheryl is much more up-front than me, so she said something. And it was confirmed — it was Joey! The story gets a little awkward after that (are celebrity spottings ever not not awkward???), but I ended up getting a picture with him. He was super-nice, and took my phone out of my hand to shoot the selfie. I'll never wash my phone again! HA!

Amazing, right? Baby Bianca would be SO IMPRESSED. After work, my friends Sheridan, Drew, and Misti met me at my house so we could grab dinner before the show.

See, I promise there's food in this post! We went to RP Tracks, home of the famous BBQ tofu nachos (which everyone else ordered). But I'd eaten them fairly recently and was looking for something a tad healthier. I opted for the Alpha Beta Pita (hold the feta) with chipotle hummus, cucumber, sprouts, black olives, and tomato, plus fries that I dipped into vegan ranch (they serve Imagine Vegan Cafe ranch at RP Tracks!).

After dinner, we headed to the show! WE WERE SO EXCITED!! The Mixtape Tour was headlined by the New Kids, but it also featured Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Salt-n-Pepa, and Naughty By Nature. Best line-up ever.

The show was simply amazing. The New Kids — all in their late 40s and early 50s —still have the right stuff, y'all. They sang all the hits and some newer stuff that I knew all the words to (because, yes, I have their newset album). 

Debbie Gibson is still so hot!!! She and Joey sang a duet (Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga style!) for Lost in Your Eyes. Wow.

Aside from the New Kids, Tiffany has always been my fave. She sang I Think We're Alone Now, and I almost cried.

Misti and I had seen Salt-n-Pepa a couple years ago at the I Love the 90s tour, and they were great then. And even better here.

Naughty By Nature was great too, but I somehow failed to take any pics of them (video, yes!). I was probably too busy singing along with "O.P.P."

Okay, I'll be back tomorrow with a more food-focused post, I swear. But I just had to share all this awesomeness with the internet.