Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Railgarten

When Railgarten — an outdoor/indoor bar and recreation center — opened a couple years ago, they were not very vegan-friendly ("Duck Fat Fries" was an actual menu item!). As much as I loved hanging out at this sprawling bar with its bonfires, lawn chairs, ping pong tables, and volleyball courts, I'd given up any hope that I'd ever be able to consume anything besides alcohol there.

And then a vegan miracle happened! Railgarten released a new menu that was loaded with vegan items! Even the fries are safe now! Last night, our Memphis Vegan Drinks group had our monthly meetup there, and I was able to collect pics of several new menu items.

I ordered the Korean BBQ Tofu Tacos — three street taco-sized gems are stuffed with fried tofu coated in tangy Korean BBQ sauce, cabbage slaw, and fresh radish. These were every bit as tasty as they looked, and the tofu texture was just perfect (and not at all greasy). I was sad when they were gone.

Jennifer ordered the Korean BBQ Tofu Salad, which was similar to the tacos but with salad fixins, like spring mix, red onion, tomato, and a citrus lime vinaigrette.

The Korean BBQ can also be ordered as skewers. They can be ordered as a snack (2 skewers) or a meal (4 skewers).

Or you can opt for Buffalo Tofu Skewers! These are served with ranch, but it's not vegan, so I'd recommend bringing your own vegan ranch (yes, I'm the kind of girl who travels with condiments in my purse).

Melissa ordered the Veggie & Hummus Pita (to make this vegan, leave off the tzatziki), which has hummus, portabellas, tomato, broccoli slaw, red onion, and cucumber. Served with homemade chips, unless you sub fries (which Melissa did).

There's also an Impossible burger on the menu, but like so many mom-and-pop places right now, they're experiencing a shortage. They offered a black bean burger last night as a substitute, but I cannot confirm its vegan-ness.

So excited that Railgarten has so many vegan options now! Now I can hang out at this adult playground and enjoy some food with my booze.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Vegan Sleep Vitamins!

I used to be a GREAT sleeper. I could sleep through a tornado. Heck, I actually did sleep through a hurricane once. Technically, it was a wind storm (we don't have hurricanes in Memphis), but the 2003 wind storm did so much damage to the city of Memphis, it was dubbed Hurricane Elvis. I slept through winds of 100 miles an hour that knocked down trees all over the city and left 70% of Memphis (including my apartment at the time) without power for two weeks.

These days, I wake with every rumble of thunder. And even on clear nights without storms, I wake to pee 3-4 times a night and often struggle to fall back to sleep. I try to get 7 hours of sleep each night, but I often naturally wake up at 6.5 hours and cannot fall back to sleep. I hear this is what happens when you get old.

I've tried lots of things and have had some success with CBD, but it's not perfect. I still struggle to stay asleep. But last week, I received a shipment of Sugarbear Sleep Vitamins to review, and I'm happy to report that they're really working!

These gummies have a great berry flavor and contain melatonin, magnesium, theanine (L-theanine), and vitamin B6, plus lemon balm leaf, passion flower, valerian root, and 5-HTP. They're vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free.

You're supposed to take two 30 minutes before bed, but I can feel myself getting drowsy within 15 minutes of taking them. The first night was a little rough, and they didn't seem to work for me. I was still awake several times throughout the night, and I was still drowsy the next day. But I've taken them for about a week since then, and they've magically started working (and are helping me stay asleep). I suspect my body had to get used them, maybe?

They're non-addictive, and I've skipped taking them on nights when I was so sleepy that I didn't feel like I needed any help sleeping. But they're nice to have on those evenings when you're all wound up and not ready for bed at bedtime. Would definitely recommend these!

Monday, July 29, 2019

My Best Friend's Birthday Fun!

My BFF (since 7th grade y'all!!) Sheridan and her partner Drew came to Memphis on Saturday to see Hamilton at the Orpheum, and since Sher's birthday is coming up in two weeks, we decided to celebrate her birthday too.

They arrived in time for dinner on Saturday night, and they chose Lucky Cat Ramen since they hadn't been there yet. I've ordered Lucky Cat's yuzu veggie ramen several times, so I decided to branch out and try the Crispy Mushroom Rice Bowl.

This isn't listed as vegan on the menu, but they were happy to sub out veggie broth for the dashi. The white rice was soft on the inside and crispy on the outside (similar to rice in bibimbap). It's covered in broth and grilled oyster mushrooms, plus radish pickles. Very yummy. Would eat again!

We shared an order of the Curry Pop Dumplings, which were stuffed with sweet potato. Also really yummy!

After dinner, they went to see Hamilton (which I had seen the previous Tuesday!). I picked them up after the show, and we went straight to Art Bar at Crosstown Arts for cocktails and wine.

On Sunday morning, we had brunch plans. But we woke up too early so I had to make us a snack — Air Fried Doughnuts! These are so simple — just a can of biscuits (Pillsbury Grands are vegan) cooked in the air fryer at 360 for about six minutes. Then they're rolled in vegan butter and cinnamon sugar. But if you need the recipe, here ya go.

Around 11 am, we headed to Imagine Vegan Cafe for brunch! Here we are with much-needed coffee (since we went to bed late and woke up early).

I ordered the brunch special — French Toast with Hash Brown Casserole & Vegan Sausage. The French toast was perfect, but that hash brown casserole was the star of the plate. Greasy hash browns with vegan cheddar and bits of sausage. Not something I should eat every day but perfect for brunch.

Happy Birthday, Sheridan!!!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Masala Burger! Tofu Cottage Cheese! And More!

This past Tuesday night, my friend Pam let me be her date to see Hamilton at the Orpheum!!! OMG y'all, IT WAS SO GOOD. Seriously lived up to all hype. I can't stop listening to the soundtrack. Before the show, I needed to scarf down something quick, so I made a Trader Joe's Masala Burger with Ginger-Mango Chutney (also from TJ's) and Air-Fried Curry Fries (served with curry ketchup).

One of my all-time fave breakfasts is Tofu Cottage Cheese & Vegemite on Toast. My recipe for tofu cottage cheese is in my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk, but I didn't have the vegan yogurt on-hand when I made it this week, so I just made this batch with vegan mayo. It's still very good with the salty Vegemite. This works great with Marmite too, but Vegemite is my fave (Susan in Australia will be proud!).

Here's a Smoked Tofu Stir-fry I made with some smoked tofu (from my dad), broccoli, and zucchini over brown rice.

And here's last night's dinner, enjoyed outside on an unseasonably cool summer night, while reading Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons by Bryan Powell. My dinner was Whole Wheat Pasta with Cashew Alfredo, Spinach, & Veggie Balls. The sauce was from a jar (by Victoria Vegan), and the balls were from IKEA.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Ethiopian Lentils! Spinach Fettucine! Brioche!

Last week, I met a friend for dinner at Blue Nile — the best Ethiopian joint in town! I usually get their Vegetarian Platter because it has a little of everything on it. But this time, I was craving a big bowl of my favorite Ethiopian stew, Messir Wat. This red lentil stew is SO GOOD scooped up with spongey injera bread. For my sides, I picked Collard Greens and Cabbage.

Last Saturday, the Crosstown Memphis CDC held a big yard sale at Crosstown Concourse, and I (wo)manned a Crosstown Arts info table at the event. I was there from 7 am-3 pm, so that meant I'd have to miss my usual Saturday morning trip to the Lulu's booth at the CY Farmer's Market. But my friend Susan saved the day! She showed up to the yard sale with this Lulu's Tomato Basil Brioche in hand right as I was starting to think about snack time.

Around lunch that same day, I decided to grab some takeout from the cafe at Crosstown Arts. They only serve brunch on Saturdays, but the brunch menu features both traditional breakfast items and more lunch-y things, like this Vegan Spinach Fettucine with Bolognese Sauce, Garlic Bread, & Caper Berries. 

WOW. This blew me away! The pasta was handmade (and VEGAN!!!), and the meaty sauce was made with Beyond burger. A co-worker, who is not vegan, tried a bite and loved it. She wanted to get a plate for herself but forgot to get over to the cafe before they closed. Several other people checked out my plate while I was eating and, after just looking at it, went upstairs to get their own serving. 

Of course, I don't eat out every day! I try to balance those decadent meals with healthy things at home, like this breakfast of Strawberry Flax Walnut Oats with chocolate peanut butter powder stirred into the oats.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Lulu's Summer Grill-Out Pop-up!

This past Sunday, our friends at Lulu's Memphis hosted a pop-up featuring fresh-grilled, hand-crafted blackeyed pea burgers and carrot dogs at the Memphis Made Brewing Co. taproom. It had all the makings of a perfect Sunday Funday! Vegan burgers and beer? I'm in!

Paul and I met some friends there just as they were opening at 1 pm, and there was already a line! Lulu's is well-loved and supported by the Memphis vegan community! Here's Don, Stephanie, and Tiffany grilling and plating.

You could choose between a handmade blackeyed pea burger or a smoked carrot dog. The dog sounded great, but I LOVE Lulu's blackeyed pea sausages so I figured I'd love the blackeyed pea burger as well.

And I did! This char-grilled burger was PERFECT in every way, served inside a grilled Lulu's fresh-based bun. The Lulu's buns are made with potato flour and have a soft brioche texture. Pretty much everything Lulu's sells is homemade, so they even made their own pickles and kraut. I had both of those on my burger, as well as watercress, tomato, red onion, mustard, and vegan mayo.

You could pick two sides, so I went with Potato Salad and Grilled Corn & Tomato Salad. Washed down with a couple of brews from Memphis Made — the Cat Nap IPA and the Lime Junt Ale.

Monday, July 22, 2019

New Vegan Burger at Farm Burger Memphis!

Farm Burger at Crosstown Concourse in Memphis has added a new handmade vegan burger to their menu! My office at Crosstown Arts is just upstairs from Farm Burger, and I stop in often for their Impossible Burger (the best one in town!). But sometimes a girl needs a veggie-based patty when she's feeling like getting her healthy eating game back on.

Today was one of those days. Paul and I made lunch plans for Farm Burger, but after a weekend of eating lots and lots of decadent, awesome food, I figured a good veggie patty (served atop a salad) would be a better choice than a burger on a bun with fries.

You can get any burger at Farm Burger served on a salad, rather than a bun. And today, I had the new Housemade Vegan Burger on the Superfood Salad (it has kale, cabbage, hemp seed, fried blackeyed peas, and grainy dijon vinaigrette). If you order the new burger on a bun, it comes topped with cucumber salad and lemon-garlic tahini dressing (YUM! I'll have to try it on a bun soon!).

The patty itself is made with quinoa, blackeyed peas, kale, roasted mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and spices, and it tastes amazing! It's firm enough that it holds it's shape (unlike some handmade veggie patties), and it has that char-grilled burger flavor.

The fact that Farm Burger now carries TWO vegan burger options is so cool! When they first opened a couple years ago, there were no vegan burger options there (they had a vegetarian patty that wasn't vegan). Of course I made the need for a vegan burger known every chance I got! And I'm sure other Memphis vegans did to. They heard the demand loud and clear and added Impossible pretty early on. And now they have this great veggie patty option!

By the way, I've been told that Farm Burger (like many smaller chains and locally owned restaurants) is experiencing an Impossible burger shortage thanks to increased demand worldwide. It's pretty cool that Impossible has grown so quickly and that they're expanding into chain fast-food restaurants. But I do hope Impossible works that out soon! Thankfully, Farm Burger has this new vegan burger option!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Artichoke Burgers by Foodies

I love a good plant-based meat burger, like Beyond or Impossible. But now that I'm trying to focus on whole foods most of the time, I'd rather save those for occasional treats. For everyday burger needs, I prefer a veggie- or nut-based patty, but there aren't many burgers on the market that are made entirely of whole foods.

A few months ago, the folks at Five Star Foodies sent me some free product coupons to review their artichoke burgers and vegan frittatas. I'd tried their eggless frittata (made with a base of pumpkin seeds and potato!) before, but I'd never seen their burgers for sale around here. When I looked the burgers up on their website, I was excited to see they were made with real stuff, like brown rice, cashews, artichokes, onions, nooch, potato flour, and apple cider vinegar. No ingredients you can't pronounce!

It took me FOREVER to find these locally. The Kroger store that used to sell the Five Star Foodies Frittatas when I'd last purchased them no longer carried anything from them. I also couldn't find their products at Whole Foods or Sprouts. But I kept the coupons in my wallet just in case I happened upon some, and lo and behold, that finally happened at the Poplar Plaza Kroger! They didn't have the frittatas, but they did have two flavors of the burgers.

I've tried both the Original and the French Herb this week, and both were excellent. The patties are soft, as most veggie-based burgers are. But they retain their shape after a few bites, which is impressive. The Original has a hint of artichoke and a satisfying fattiness from the cashews, and the French Herb has a garlicky rosemary flavor.

I enjoyed the Original patty topped with a slice of Daiya American cheese and enjoyed with some sweet potato fries made in the air fryer. And the French Herb made an excellent work day lunch topped with red onion, pickle, lettuce, and dijon.

These burgers also come in Indian Tandoori, Thai Coconut, and Italian Herb. All of those sound great, but if I ever spot those Indian or Thai patties, they're definitely making it into my cart!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Oh Snap!

Call me cliche, but I love a good pickle — pickled cucumbers, pickled okra, pickled beets, pickled just about anything! Pickles are a go-to snack when I'm not actually hungry but just want to be eating something, which, let's be real, is every moment between meal times.

But packing pickles for work can be messy since the brine tends to spill everywhere in my lunch bag. And forget about eating pickles on the road! I have a year-old Subaru Crosstrek, and I still freak out when any food or liquid comes anywhere near my seats.

But Oh Snap! Pickling Co. is making pickle-snacking more convenient! These crisp, sour pickles come in easy-to-carry, brine-free packages. That means you can toss them in your purse or lunch bag and even eat them in the car!

They sent me a few flavors to review, and I've been enjoying them over the past couple weeks. First, I tried the Hoppin' Jalapenos on a Black Bean, Roasted Pineapple, & Plantain Bowl with Avo-Lime Dressing (from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook). The recipe didn't call for jalapenos, but after assembling the bowl, I knew something was missing. Hot peppers! These crisp pickled jalapenos were fairly mild but they added just the right level of heat and tang. These would also be good as snack on their own.

The Pretty Peas made a nice side to a sandwich one day at work. These snap peas are brined and slightly sour, but they maintain their crispy bite.

But my very fave were the Carrot Cuties! I had these today as a morning snack, along with a slice of fresh rosemary bread and some strawberries. These slim sticks have a light pickled flavor with a satisfying snap.

I haven't opened the Dilly Bites yet, but I've actually picked these up at a gas station in the past during a road trip. I was very impressed that the pickle slices retained their dilly flavor and crispness without brine.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Food My Parents Made Me!

Last weekend was one of those weekends with only a few plans, so I decided it'd be fun to visit my parents in Arkansas. They didn't have Saturday night plans either, and they love to cook. So I asked if my dad would cook his famous (thanks to my mom's frequent Facebook posts) Oven Chicken Fajitas. 

He typically makes these with meat chicken, but since I was coming, he veganized the recipe using Gardein crispy tenders. He'd planned to use Beyond Meat strips, but their health food store was out. So instead, he chopped the breading off the Gardein strips and sliced into smaller bits. That's a lot of work, but I'm so grateful he was willing to do that so I could try his amazing fajitas.

The fajita mix is baked in the oven with bell peppers, onions, and spices. It was just as good as my mom had previously bragged on Facebook! On the side, my mom made Spanish Rice-a-Roni (yes, it's vegan!) and some Refried Beans with Daiya. Plus, she whipped up her Vegan Pancho's Dip and some guac.'

If you're from Memphis or Northeast Arkansas, you know about Pancho's Cheese Dip. It's the food of the gods around these parts. Pancho's Cheese Dip — the staple dip you're served at Memphis/West Memphis Pancho's restaurants — is a creamy nacho cheese dip with a hint of cumin, always served cold. If I could go back on my veganism for any one food, it would be Pancho's Cheese Dip, so I am thrilled that my mom created a vegan version. She uses vegan cream cheese, vegan cheddar, Rotel, and spices (definitely cumin). It's SO GOOD.

After dinner, we enjoyed some homemade Fried Strawberry Pies that my mom made with fresh berries that she cooked down into a pie filling. These glazed fried pies were so tender and lightly sweet. All they were missing was a glass of iced tea (which they always keep in the fridge, but I tend to avoid to keep my sugar intake down). Me eating a fried pie!

My dad got a smoker around Christmas time, and when I stop by, my dad smokes me a couple pounds of tofu to take back home with me. This time, he made a "chicken" smoked tofu and an Asian-spiced smoked tofu. I had some of the chicken-y tofu atop some Savory Oats for breakfast yesterday! The oats were seasoned with nooch and salt. I mixed in some steamed broccoli and carrots.

Seems like I should go home more often!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Bread! Tofu! More Bread!

I went to the Cooper-Young Farmers Market last Saturday with the intention of picking up a Lulu's Baked black-eyed pea & sausage biscuit cause they're awesome. But then I laid eyes on this beauty — Broiche with Beet Prosciutto, Jalapenos & Cashew Cream Cheese. So this was my breakfast! I took it home and slowly enjoyed every bite. This was probably the best thing I've ever had from Lulu's, and that's saying a lot because everything from Lulu's is amazing. The brioche was soooo soft and perfect.

Speaking of Lulu's, I picked up some Tomato Focaccia from them a couple weeks ago at the downtown farmer's market. I didn't have any immediate plans for it though, so I stuck it in the freezer. Last week, I thawed it out and used it for some Cashew Cheese & Veggie Sandwiches made with herb-garlic Treeline cashew cheese, cucumbers, tomato, lettuce, carrot, roasted red pepper, and kalamata olives.

I had some leftover Daiya American slices after 4th of July, and you know what that means! Grilled Cheese!! Served with some Plantain Chips with Salsa and Guacamole. I've recently discovered Herdez salsa, and I will NEVER GO BACK to any other salsa. This jarred salsa tastes like the fresh stuff from a Mexican restaurant. And it's cheap!

Last Friday, my co-workers and I went to Phuong Long for lunch. This neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant is home one of the best tofu dishes in Memphis — Jalapeno Salt Tofu. This dry fried tofu dish is so full of flavor. The jalapenos tend to be super hot (hotter than the kind I typically find in the store), so I usually only eat a couple of those. But I eat all my tofu!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Grilled Tofu Wrap! Brown Rice Pudding! And More!

Yesterday, the cafe at Crosstown Arts was serving a Grilled Tofu Wrap with pickled okra, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Any time they do grilled tofu, I'm all in!! Not sure what they do to it, but it's always amazing. Plus, pickled okra is MY FAVE.

Two years after the release of The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, it's still my very fave! I've made so many things from it that I've decided to set a goal to cook the whole book! I went through and checked off what I've made so far, and I'm about halfway there. This week, I've been enjoying the Slow Cooker Coconut Matcha Brown Rice for breakfast. 

This rice pudding is so simple! Just coconut milk, brown rice, and matcha tea powder cooked in the slow cooker overnight. Topped with coconut, cardamom, blueberries, maple, and pistachios.

I made another NMA Cookbook recipe last night for dinner. The Basic Dal is, well, basic. But sometimes that's what you need. This hearty bowl of yellow split peas and brown basmati rice was perfect after yoga. Topped with cilantro and lime juice.

I'm finally done with my July 4th leftovers! Earlier this week, I had the last Field Roast Burger with Daiya American Cheese on a Lulu's Baked bun with a side of Grilled Corn and Cucumber Salad. 

And another night, I had the last of the Veggie & Tofu Skewers (dumped into a pile on my plate) with Quinoa and Grilled Corn. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Wholly Rollies Protein Balls

I'm always looking for new whole foods-based pre-workout snacks. I was on a Larabar kick for months, and I still love them, but I've had all the flavors so many times now that I'm getting bored with them. This review shipment of Wholly Rollies Protein Balls by Crazy Richard's couldn't have come at a better time.

These little frozen protein balls are made with just 5-6 ingredients! No added protein powders (not that I'm against that, but it's nice when the protein comes from whole foods). No added sweeteners (just natural dates!).

The PB & Cacao are my fave, and they're definitely more peanut buttery than chocolately. They're made from peanut butter, oats, dates, cacao nibs, and unsweetened toasted coconut. The nibs add a fun little crunch and burst of flavor.

The Cinnamon Oatmeal balls are made with peanut butter, oats, dates, golden raisins, flax, and organic cinnamon. And they taste like little peanut buttery oatmeal cookies. Isn't peanut butter the missing thing in all oatmeal cookies? PB belongs in EVERYTHING. There's also a PB & Strawberry flavor I'd love to try.

Each ball has 4 grams of protein, and I've been eating two before light workouts (runs of 3 miles or less) for 8 grams of protein and 12 grams of carbs.

One interesting thing about these: They recommend keeping them frozen so they hold their shape. I didn't read the instructions though and left them in my fridge for days. They still held their shape just fine! But then I moved them to the freezer when I finally noticed the package said to store them there. And I've found that I really love the texture of the frozen balls. You can eat them straight out of the freezer!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Fun & Food with Greg!

Yesterday, I blogged about how my bestie Greg was in town from Kentucky for the July 4 weekend. You can read about our grill-out and downtown fireworks excursion here. This post is dedicated to everything we ate last Friday and Saturday.

I took a vacation day from work on Friday so Greg and I could hang out (yay! 4-day weekend!). We slept in and then met up with our friend Stephanie at Pho Binh for Greg's very favorite thing to eat in Memphis — TOFU BUFFET! Here's my plate with Lemongrass Tofu, Green Bean Tofu, Black Bean Tofu, Curry Tofu Soup, and Cabbage Soup.

We were stuffed after lunch, and Greg had some work to do remotely, so we headed back home. He worked; I watched The Wire. Then, we had plans to meet up with our friends Vaughan and Nicole at the cafe at Crosstown Arts, where I work in communications and where Nicole used to work as the cafe manager. 

When Greg lived in Memphis, he lived in the Crosstown neighborhood (down the road from me), so I was excited to show him Crosstown Concourse. Concourse is a massive, mixed-use redevelopment project located in a formerly abandoned Sears headquarters — now home to arts, education, and healthcare orgs, as well as awesome vegan-friendly restaurants and some retail. I do communications for Concourse as well, and I'm very proud of this project. So I couldn't wait to show Greg! 

At the cafe, I ordered the daily Big Ass Salad to counter the effects of all that tofu earlier. This had romaine, pickled okra, tomato, fried kale, and green tomato dressing. That fried kale is my favorite thing! I ordered some fried chickpeas on the side and dumped them on the salad too.

After dinner, we enjoyed a drink with Vaughan and Nicole at Art Bar (the bar inside Crosstown Arts). Later that night, we caught an amateur drag show at Dru's Place, then a quick drink at The Pumping Station before calling it a night.

The next day, it was time to eat again! We met Megan at Imagine Vegan Cafe. Greg and Imagine owners Kristie and Adam go way back, so they were excited to see him! The special of the day was DONUT BURGERS!! Y'all know I had to get on that. Beyond Burger between two glazed doughnuts with special sauce. Mmmmmmmmm.

I was stuffed (yet again) after this meal, but by dinner time, my tummy growling again. I swear my metabolism is that of a 14-year-old boy. I can put away some food! Greg wasn't really hungry, but I convinced him to go on a picnic on Big River Crossing. That's the pedestrian/bike bridge that leads from Memphis to Arkansas over the Mississippi River. Btw, Greg is not unhappy here. He just never smiles in pictures. It's a thing. 

We had a ton of leftovers from grilling and other meals during the weekend, so we packed them for a Leftovers Picnic! Tofu & veggie skewers (July 4 leftovers), a yummy lemongrass tofu stir-fry (made with some tofu Greg picked up for grilling but didn't get used), teriyaki noodles (that Greg picked up otw to Memphis and never ate), cucumber salad (more July 4 leftovers), herb-garlic cashew cheese (picked up on clearance) and crackers, and vodka watermelon (also leftover).

We enjoyed our food (of course, mine is the loaded plate!) on a picnic table on the Arkansas side and then made the mile walk back to Memphis. Such a fun, food-filled weekend!! But I'm back on my whole foods regimen this week!