Thursday, August 29, 2019

80/20 Plants Breakfast Week!

Sooooo I've joined another whole foods meal plan program! Every few months, I like to do a reset to get myself back on track. My goal is to eat more whole foods, reserving junk food and processed treats for just that – TREATS. But it's hard, y'all. Especially with so many new plant-based meats and treats on the market. It's easier than ever to be vegan. But it's hard to be a whole food, plant-based vegan these days!

As a member of the No Meat Athlete Tribe, I was offered a special discount rate for a test version of their new 80/20 Plants program! So I figured I should take advantage of that. I love the premise for this new program — eat 80% whole foods and 20% whatever else you want (plant meats, desserts, oils, and other processed foods). Going 100% whole foods, plant-based is not feasible for me. I love vegan junk food, and a life without doughnuts is no life at all. But I think this sensible 80/20 plan is just right for me.

Much like the NMA Health Made Simple plan, this new 80/20 Plants plan eases you into whole foods. The first week, we're only focusing on whole food, plant-based breakfasts. And the rest of my meals can be whatever. They don't provide a set meal plan but rather recipes so you can create your own. On my first day, Tuesday, I made Avocado Toast on whole wheat bread.

The next day, my breakfast was Steel Cut Oats with maple syrup, walnuts, flax, and berries.

And today, my breakfast was this Strawberry Banana Smoothie with spinach, flax, and walnuts.

They provide a handful of 80/20 Plants official recipes, as well as links to 80/20-approved recipes from around the web. There are also really cool "blueprints" that offer easy meal ideas for, say, building a taco or building a bowl. You get daily videos led by vegan Olympian and nutritionist Julia Murray (this morning's video was about re-organizing your pantry, and now I'm inspired to do that!). And you have access to a health coach for any questions you may have!

80/20 Plants is not accepting sign-ups right now because it's in a test phase. Those of us who are participating will provide feedback, and they'll use that to make the program even better before its released to the public. I'll be sure and let y'all know when that happens! It'd be a perfect program for someone looking to go vegan, as well as someone like me who just needs a whole foods reset.

I'll be blogging about my progress along the way, but don't be surprised if you see my usual posts of plant-based meats and treats pretty regularly for a few weeks. Next week, we start focusing on whole foods-based snacks, but we don't clean up our lunches or dinners for a couple weeks. Until then, I'll be working my way through all the junk food in my freezer!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Impossible Burgers! Jamaican Chickpeas! & More!

I finally got a chance to try the Impossible Burger at Next Door American Eatery in Crosstown Concourse (the building where I work). This is the second location in our building to offer the Impossible, and I've had it MANY times at the other place, Farm Burger. Next Door recently added this as a vegan burger option. Previously, they only served a non-vegan beet burger.

It was good! It has caramelized onions and tomato and comes served with a small salad and chips (upgrade to fries for $2). Normally, it also has a vegan thousand island dressing, but they were out of vegan mayo so I subbed ketchup and mustard instead. I really liked how the patty is served rare and kind of thick. I enjoy the Impossible cooked in all kinds of ways, and it's nice that there's variation in how its prepared in different Memphis restaurants. I think I've now had every Impossible in town!

By the way, if you're curious how I feel about the Impossible/animal testing issue, this article says it all.

On Sunday, Paul and I spent the afternoon playing video games and axe throwing (!!!) at Rec Room/Civil Axe, and we worked up an appetite! We went home and made Spaghetti with Mushrooms. I always cook the pasta and sauce, and Paul makes his famous mushrooms.

Last night, we had our monthly Memphis Vegan Drinks meet-up at Evelyn & Olive. I haven't been to this little Jamaican restaurant in years! They have a number of vegan options, and they've added a new vegan dish since my last visit — Curried Potatoes & Chickpeas. 

These creamy chickpeas are served with the world's best slow-cooked collards and coconut rice. Yummy! Definitely ordering this again for those amazing greens.

Last night, we had a Crosstown Run Crew meet-up after work (and post-run beers at Crosstown Brewing after that). So I got home pretty late. Thankfully, I had some Amy's Vegan Pizza Rolls in my freezer! This was my first time trying these, and they were SO AMAZING. The insides are stuffed with vegan cheese and marinara, and then I had extra marinara for dipping.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Breakfast Sandwiches & Doughnuts!!

My friends at Lulu's Baked took a few weeks off selling their amazing treats at the farmers markets while they moved to a new prep space. And I was having serious Lulu's withdrawals. But they came through in a big way this past weekend! I stopped by for my favorite Smoked Carrot & Cashew Cheddar Bun (enjoyed after a trail walk/run!!! I'm kinda running again!).

And while I was there, they hooked me up with some free treats, like this Tofu English Muffin Breakfast Sandwich. Don made the muffins from scratch, and they were amazing!! I hope they start selling these every week! Not pictured were the free brioche they also gave me (they weren't happy with that brioche batch so they gave some to their regular customers, but they tasted amazing to me!).

Imagine Vegan Cafe had DOUGHNUT DAY this past Sunday!!! They don't make doughnuts every week, but when they do, Memphis vegans lose their minds. I stopped by for a Chocolate Pecan Doughnut!

And finally, check out this amazing meal! The cafe at Crosstown Arts (where I work) recreated the Kid Cuisine microwave meal as a vegan Big Kid Cuisine! This has handmade seitan nuggets with BBQ sauce, tots (!!!), arugula salad, and a brownie. The seitan was insanely delicious, and while I'm not usually into arugula, it was a nice balance to all that fried goodness (and the dressing was really yummy).

Monday, August 26, 2019

Noochylicious Vegan Cheeseburger Mac Hamburger Helper!

Do you ever hear someone talk about a meal and think, man, I want to make that too? That happened to me last weekend when I was visiting my best friend Sheridan. She and her partner Drew were talking about a quick and easy dinner they'd made — vegan cheeseburger mac hamburger helper!

Sheridan said she'd use my basic nooch sauce from Cookin' Crunk and added some vegan cheddar shreds, vegan beef crumbles, and broccoli for a noochy vegan hamburger helper. When I returned home to Memphis from that visit, that meal was still on my mind. So I grabbed all the stuff to make it on my next grocery trip!

One thing I didn't need to shop for was nooch because the fine folks at Gloriously Vegan had shipped me a review bag of their Noochylicious Nutritional Yeast to try. Apparently, some nooch contains additives and synthetic supplements, but Gloriously Vegan's Noochylicious does not! And it's 100% organic!

I don't find a big taste variation in one nooch to the next, so I can't say this tastes different than other nooch I've tried. But one thing I did notice is a finer flake. It's almost a powder, which is nice when you're trying to incorporate the nooch into a sauce (and I did in the recipe for vegan hamburger helper).

Okay, now about that recipe. I don't know if my cheeseburger mac used the exact same recipe as Sheridan's, but I bet it's pretty close. For the beef crumbles, I used the new Alpha Foods Original Beefy Crumble, but any vegan beef crumble will work here!

By the way, just note that the picture below doesn't do this yummy recipe justice! It's super creamy and delicious but hard to photograph!

Noochylicious Vegan Cheeseburger Mac Hamburger Helper
Yields 4 servings

4 oz. whole wheat elbow mac or penne pasta
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose white flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 Tbsp. vegan margarine
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tsp. coconut oil
1 8 oz. bag frozen vegan beef crumbles
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into small pieces (fresh or frozen)

Boil the pasta according to package instructions.

For the nooch sauce, combine nooch, flour, salt, and garlic powder and stir to combine. Add the water and almond milk and whisk until most lumps are gone. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, until the sauce thickens to a gravy-like consistency (about 5-6 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the margarine and dijon, stirring until margarine is melted.

In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until it coats the pan. Add the crumbles and saute for about 5-7 minutes or until thawed and lightly browned. Add the broccoli and saute until it turns bright green and becomes tender. 

Add the nooch sauce and burger/broccoli mixture to the drained, cooked pasta and stir to combine. Serve (with sriracha if you want!). 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Brats, Bowls, and Breakfast Sandwiches!

Last night, I had plans to go to my usual Wednesday night yoga class, but then I just happened to be scrolling Instagram and saw Imagine Vegan Cafe's special of the day — a Beyond Brat with Chao Cheese, Vegan Ranch, & BBQ Sauce on a Pretzel Bun. Ummmmm, how could I miss that?

Because I had other errands to do (and an early bedtime), I had to choose between yoga and a vegan brat. I chose the brat! I got Potato Salad on the side. Y'all, THIS WAS MAGICAL. I'd never think to put ranch on a brat, but the folks at Imagine are always thinking outside the box.

On Tuesday, my co-worker Caitlin and I had lunch at Global Café in Crosstown Concourse (where we work). I'd not yet tried the Vegan Black Bean Arepa from the Venezuelan food stall, so that's what I got. It was simply arepa, black beans, and pico, but it was so good. The beans are so well-spiced, and the arepa was fluffy and not-at-all greasy (like other arepa I've had in the past).

I've been eating Tofu Avocado Breakfast Sandwiches this week for breakfast! Tofu cooked with Vegg yolk mix, mashed avo, and Food for Life sprouted grain english muffins. Such a quick and filling breakfast.

I've also been eating lots of bowls this week. I had some leftover coconut curry sauce (just coconut milk and red curry paste) from last week's jackfruit curry. So I used that to top this bowl with tofu, kale, bell pepper, carrot, red cabbage, garlic, fresh turmeric, and brown rice maifun noodles.

Here's a similar bowl (same tofu and veggies) with quinoa and this Ginger Miso Tahini Sauce from Minimalist Baker.

Oh hey, I dyed my hair! I wasn't intending on going THIS red. But I didn't have time to drive out to Sprouts or Whole Foods for more natural vegan hair dye, and the only vegan dye that Walgreens by my house carries is Splat (which only makes wild colors). But I love it!! I've done crazy colors before, and they're a lot of maintenance, which is why I generally stick with more natural colors. I'm lazy! But I'll probably keep this color up for a few months at least.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Southern Cookin' & Summer Picnics

My FitBit died a couple Saturdays ago, and my awesome parents went ahead and bought me a new running watch (a Garmin Vivoactive 3!!) as an early birthday gift. I can't really function without a running watch. Even though I'm still not running as my foot heals (soon!!), I need the GPS to track my bike rides. The watch arrived in the mail at their house last Thursday, so I drove over to Arkansas Friday night to pick it up and have dinner with my parents and granny.

My mom made our favorite summer family meal with lots of fried veggies! There are Fried Green Tomatoes, Fried Potatoes, Hoe Cakes (that's fried cornbread), Macaroni & Tomatoes, Purple Hull Peas, Buttered Corn off the Cob.

I forgot to take a picture of the amazing fried peach pies that we had for dessert (with a scoop of Nada Moo vegan snickerdoodle ice cream). But they were SO GOOD.

Check out this awesome meal from the cafe at Crosstown Arts! Massaman Curry with tofu, broccoli, potatoes, peanuts, and rice. The coconut based sauce was so creamy and satisfying!!

Curry was a big theme last week! I also had Jackfruit Curry Noodles made with Upton's Naturals curry jackfruit, carrots, bell pepper, and a red curry coconut sauce over brown rice maifun noodles. Jackfruit's textures always kind of weirds me out, but I eat it anyway.

Sprouts had the new Alpha Foods vegan pot pies on sale last week, so I tried this Chick'n Veggie Pot Pie. It was good! I'd probably never pay full price for it, but it was great for the sale price. This was stuffed with vegan chicken and broccoli in a cheesy sauce. Since I baked it in the oven, the crust was nice and crisp.

For the full moon last Thursday, the Memphis River Parks Partnership hosted a free kayaking event in the Mississippi River harbor. No way we were missing that! My friend Megan and I packed a picnic and arrived really early so we could ensure that we got a free kayak rental. We enjoyed some wine with vegan Field Roast & FYH Provolone Sandwiches, Dolmas, and Olives in the Fourth Bluff Park before the event.

Then we headed out in a kayak to watch the sun set over the river! We lucked into a tandem kayak, so we were able to stick together the whole time.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Bowls & Cookies & Bagels!

My friend Susan invited me to dinner with her at City Silo (she had a gift card!) last week. I love this vegan-friendly, whole foods-based eatery, but I don't get there often enough since it's way out east. I ordered my usual — the Buffalo Tempeh & Sesame Cauliflower Bowl over zucchini noodles with kale, sunflower seeds, and cashew ranch, plus added avocado (a must add!). Enjoyed with a Mural Aqua Fresca (a watermelon gose beer).

The cafe at Crosstown Arts, where I work, had some very tempting-looking Chocolate Chip Cookies on the counter last week. I couldn't resist! Picked up one to go and enjoyed with some almond milk before my yoga class. This was chewy and flecked with sea salt. The best cookie!

Here's some Lady Peas with Rosemary Bread! I picked these up at the downtown farmer's market a few weeks ago. I love fresh summer peas!

Speaking of the farmers market, I picked up a bunch of heirloom tomatoes and pickling cucumbers at the market last week. Then I made the ultimate summer treat — Tomato Cucumber Salad (just tomatoes, cukes, thinly sliced onion, olive oil, vinegar, and a pinch of sugar). Served with pita and hummus for a hearty snack.

On that same trip to the market, I picked up some Dave's Bagels Whole Wheat Bagels. Last week, I enjoyed daily bagels spread with Garden Veggie Cashew Cream Cheese from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. This cashew-based spread is flecked with diced peppers, celery, carrots, and scallions. So much cheaper and tastier than storebought vegan cream cheese (even better than Miyoko's!!).

Monday, August 19, 2019

Celebrating Sheridan's Birthday (AGAIN!) in Little Rock!

My BFF Sheridan had a birthday on August 8th, and we celebrated in late July when she and her partner Drew were visiting Memphis to see Hamilton at The Orpheum. But little did Sheridan know, Drew had a surprise plan up his sleeve. Drew arranged a surprise birthday dinner for Sheridan and a few of her lady friends this past Saturday night at Cache, a fancy restaurant in downtown Little Rock.

He told Sher that he had won a contest to meet a local mystery celebrity for dinner at Cache, and he wanted her to go with him. She put on a new (very cute) dress and nervously rode downtown to Cache with Drew for what she expected would be an awkward dinner with a stranger. But when they arrived, we were waiting. Surprise! That's Sheridan in the middle, and our long-time friend Brittany on the right. I've known Sheridan since 7th grade and Brittany since 2nd grade!!!

A couple of the ladies who were supposed to come couldn't make it, and while Drew hadn't planned to stay, we invited him to sit down and have dinner with us.

Cache is the kind of high-end place that serves a $115 steak, but amazingly, they also have a vegetarian menu! And from the looks of it, most of the dishes on that menu are vegan. We started with an appetizer of Pita & Hummus, and let me tell you — that flatbread/pita was AMAZING. It was warm and soft, almost like pizza crust. Perfect with my dirty martini!

For my entree, I ordered the Teriyaki Tofu. It was a simple dish with lightly pan-fried tofu, a sesame teriyaki sauce, steamed broccoli, and basmati rice. It's like something I'd make at home!

I wasn't really expecting something this simple for the price ($15), but it's probably what my body needed. I definitely felt good about myself after I ate this.

I spent the night in Little Rock, and while we typically go out for brunch on my visits, we decided that we should grab a quick pastry since Sheridan had work to do on Sunday, and I had lots of chores at home. We went to Rosalia's Family Bakery, which sells vegan pastries and desserts! We got Morning Glory Muffins (stuffed with dried fruit and carrots), and I had a Soy Cappuccino.

I also grabbed a Gluten-Free Vegan Sugar Cookie to go! This made a perfect afternoon treat when I got back to Memphis.

Oh, and hey look what we found! There's an Old Town Road in Little Rock! We didn't ride our horse there (is that even vegan??), but we drove Sheridan's Subaru down the Old Town Road.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Protein Toppers!

Those who have been reading my blog for awhile probably remember my past obsession with protein powder. I used to have a protein smoothie or protein waffle (even protein banana ice cream!) after every workout. I was convinced that I needed extra protein for recovery due to my active lifestyle. But then I went on a whole foods journey and cut out protein powder for awhile. And I was okay! I recovered from workouts with the natural protein in my foods.

That said, I still use protein powder after some heavier workouts. And sometimes, I add it to my smoothies just because I like the taste and how it keeps me fuller longer. But sometimes, you want that extra protein in a savory snack. So I was very excited to try these new Vegetarian Traveler Protein Toppers when the company reached out about a review!

These toasted bean blends are made with non-gmo beans (and in some mixes, seeds) and non-gmo protein isolates. And each pack contains between 15 and 17 grams of protein. That's about the same as one scoop of protein powder.

They're only lightly salted, so they can be used to top both savory and sweet dishes. The most obvious dish to top is a salad, which I've done a lot since I got these in the mail! The beans add that perfect crunch that every salad needs. I topped this salad with the Tri-Soy Medley (soybeans and edamame).

I topped this work lunch salad with the Garbanzo & Soy Medley (garbanzos, soybeans, soy protein). They were so convenient to pack for my work lunch since they come in individual serving packs.

It's even great on yogurt! I'm not really a fan of straight yogurt (too creamy!). I need lots of crunchy toppings, and this Pepita & Soy-Pea Medley (pumpkin seeds, soybeans, pea protein) fit the bill and added much-needed protein to some low-protein Cashewgurt. I also topped this bowl with lemon blueberry granola and fresh berries. 

But my very favorite use for the Protein Toppers was on a Veggie Tofu Stir-Fry! I added the Tri-Soy Medley to this stir-fry of tofu, broccoli, bell pepper, carrot, onion, and snap peas upon serving. I considered sauteeing the toppers into the dish but got worried they'd lose their crunch. I was very happy with the texture (and extra protein) this added!

I've also enjoyed these crunchy toppers as snacks, straight out of the bag. They would be perfect for a hike or road trip when it's tough to get in whole foods-based protein!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

BURGERS (and a sandwich)

Y'all, I FINALLY tried the Burger King Impossible Whopper this past weekend, and IT WAS AMAZING. For a moment, I was worried they'd accidentally given me a meat burger! I am sooooo excited that plant-based meats are taking over the world right now!

Since I posted this image on my IG and Facebook, I've heard from a few vegans who said they wouldn't eat the Impossible because of cross-contamination. And I hear ya. You do you. But here's my take: I don't strive to be a perfect vegan. I do strive to save as many animals as I can. And when a mainstream, fast-food joint offers a plant-based burger on a massive scale, that does so much to boost awareness of veganism and to encourage non-vegans to eat less meat. And that saves animals, so I'm all for it.

Besides, if you aim to avoid all cross-contamination, you'd never be able to dine at non-vegan restaurants. And that's cool if you live in, say, Portland. But for the rest of us in smaller, less vegan-friendly cities, dining in non-vegan restaurants is a fact of life.

Okay, off my soapbox! The burger was delicious! I have a BK around the corner from my house, so I took the burger home and added Follow Your Heart Provolone and Vegenaise (be sure to order the burger with no mayo — it doesn't come with cheese). I also made some Sweet Potato Fries in the air fryer.

Here's a less attractive (due to my quick photo in the takeout box) but equally delicious vegan burger from Memphis burger joint, Huey's. They serve Beyond Burgers, and I got one to-go last week (West Coast style with guac and vegan smoked gouda) with a side of steamed veggies.

Here's a quick burger that I made at home for lunch one day! It's a Foodies Artichoke Burger (made with brown rice, artichokes, and cashews), topped with vegan provolone and veggies. More veggies and hummus on the side.

And finally, this is not a burger. It's a Tempeh Banh Mi from the cafe at Crosstown Arts. Served with mushroom pecan pate and pickled veggies. Perfection!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

VegReady Vegan Meals

Home-cooked meals are always my preference, but sometimes, life gets crazy and days will go by with no time to cook anything more than a frozen veggie burger for dinner. When my nights don't allow for cooking, I'm left with few options for work lunches the next day. I can either spend money and eat lunch out (which I already do too often), pack a PB&J, or bring a convenience meal.

And let's face it — most convenience meals (like frozen vegan dinners) have tiny servings that leave me starving a couple hours later. But VegReady, a new vegan meal prepared service is offering whole foods-based meals to go that require no heating, fit in your laptop bag, and won't leave your tummy growling an hour later. They sent me a couple boxes of their meals to review!

Each meal comes in a box like this. It's wide but flat and fits perfectly in my laptop bag. They require no refrigeration, so there's no need to take up space in the office fridge. In fact, these would be PERFECT for camping since they don't require heating either.

Inside, you get a quinoa tray and two veggie sides. There's even a little plastic spoon if you're truly eating on the go. I do have some feelings about all the plastic and cardboard in the packaging, but it can be recycled.

This meal contained quinoa, a spinach & broccoli cup, and a ratatouille cup (with eggplant, zucchini, and tomato). You just dump the cups on the quinoa and eat! The contents of the cups are more of a puree, which was different than I expected, but I really liked it! The spinach & broccoli cup had some olive oil mixed in, but the ratatouille was oil-free, so it wasn't overly oily. I thought I might still be hungry after I ate this, but I wasn't! I had this at noon at work and it kept me satisfied until dinner time. Because quinoa is magic.

They also sent me another meal with quinoa, spinach & broccoli, and zucchini with white onion. The onion added lots of flavor, and the zucchini, although cooked, was still a little crisp, giving the dish some texture.

VegReady meals are available by the case. You get 8 quinoa trays and 16 veggie side cups (8 of those are spinach & broccoli because they're intended to eat with every meal – gotta get your greens!) in a case. Right now, they're offering two cases for the price of one on Amazon! Check it out. Perfect for the busy office worker or the camper/picnicker!