Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Vegan Friendsgiving Potluck!

Every year (for as far back as I can remember) during my time in Memphis, my friend Vaughan has hosted a vegan Thanksgiving event. Way back in the day, he'd rent out a local comedy club and cater the whole thing (and we'd do silly vegan skits on-stage!). But more recently, he and his partner Nicole have hosted at their house. It's a huge event with lots of vegans and lots of food!

This year, I made a Vegan Green Bean Casserole using this recipe from Minimalist Baker. I loved how this turned out! It calls for fresh green beans, so you get that nice crunch. I love canned green beans as much as the next Southern girl, but fresh is always nice.

Mike brought Vegan Corn Pudding (excellent!!) and his famous Field Roast Pigs in Blankets (he uses Field Roast Apple Maple breakfast links instead of the usual hot dogs).

Duffy brought the Celebration Roast with Cranberry Sauce, a must-have at any proper Thanksgiving meal!

Clarita and James brought the Dressing, my favorite Thanksgiving dish. This was super delicious!

There were lots of sweet potato dishes, like this Mashed Sweet Potato Casserole. Also some excellent Coleslaw.

Someone brought Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes.

And someone else brought Vegan Candied Yams. My family never does the sweeter sweet potato dishes, but I love them so this was a real treat!

Jen & Simon went non-traditional with these Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms. Really yummy!

Leslie and Steven showed up with the most delicious Vegan Cheese Ball! It had been thoroughly enjoyed by everyone else before I could get to it!

Stephen and Abby brought a yummy Pomegranate Rice Stuffing!

Table shot!!!!

There were several other dishes that I failed to photograph — vegan moussaka, layered chili dip, vegan mac & cheese, rice & brussels sprouts, and several more. 

Let's not forget dessert! I don't know who brought this Chocolate Mousse Pie, but it was insanely good.

Duffy (the holiday roast bringer) also brought some Chocolate Brownies, and Nicole made Chocolate Cake Balls. I'd say Megan won the day though with her excellent Caramel Apple Pie!! THIS WAS SO GOOD.

As always, I ate WAY too much and pretty much couldn't move for a few hours afterward. I hate that feeling, but I'm a binge eater at potlucks and buffets. I have to taste every single thing. And I don't believe in wasting food, so I'm a plate cleaner. This is what plate #1 looked like. There were two more plates (a seconds plate and a dessert plate) after this. 

After that meal, I told myself I was never eating again! But two days later, I'm ready to do it all again on Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving y'all! I'll be back after the holiday!

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Tribute to My Granny

My Granny – Abbie Ruth Phillips — passed away on Sunday, November 24, 2019. Since she played such a huge role in my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk, and enjoyed reading this blog, I thought it only fitting to pay tribute to her here.

Here's my Granny WAAAAY back in the day with my dad. She and my Pa, Gordon Phillips, had two kids — my dad (David) and my Uncle Mike.

Before she retired, Granny was a manager at Dillard's at Indian Mall in Jonesboro. I grew up hanging around Dillard's and watching her be an awesome boss lady. From a very early age, Granny showed me that women can be large and in charge!

In my pre-teens, I aspired to be model when I grew up, so Granny had me model in Dillard's mall fashion shows! And one time, she asked me to dress up as a troll (with a full head mask) and hand out candy for some Dillard's event (maybe Halloween? I can't remember), but I felt very cool.

Eventually, Granny joined my Pa in retirement. They used to LOVE to go camping. Or more like "glamping" since they had a fancy camper with a full kitchen. My parents and I would drive over to join them for camping meals sometimes. Granny and Pa loved to fish, so we often had fried fish for those meals. This was before I was vegan, of course!

Here's me and Granny. I remember thinking she must be really old with all those candles on her cake, but she was probably only in her 50s then.

Granny was a breast cancer survivor. I love that she proudly let her bald head shine!

When I was in college, I was a folklore minor (also a women's studies minor — I had two!). I did a big paper on canning and preserving, and Granny taught me how to can and put up veggies for the winter. Granny was a prolific canner! I still have some of her canned goods in my pantry, and I will cherish those meals.

Granny also taught me to save jars and plastic containers to re-use. It's something I'm sure she learned growing up during the Depression, but as someone who is always trying to lessen my environmental footprint, I'm grateful that Granny taught me the value of saving.

Granny was a master of Southern cookin'. It was at her home that I had my first bowl of blackeyed peas on New Year's Day — a Southern tradition that she firmly upheld. Nobody (and I do mean nobody) could make better greens than my Granny. Rather than traditional collards, Granny used rape greens, which she often stole from her neighbor's garden. Ha!

When I went vegan in 2004, Granny quickly adapted her recipes, specifically her desserts, using vegan margarine and egg replacer. She GOT it. And she worked and worked until those veganized recipes were perfect. Granny's vegan coconut icebox cake and coconut pie were amazing, and I'm so grateful that we got those recipes on paper before her dementia set in.

In fact, Granny might as well have been named as a co-author on my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk, since so many of the recipes (both desserts and savory dishes) were hers. I'll have to make her Corn Casserole and Mandarin Orange Cobbler soon in her honor.

We'll miss Granny. She was an awesome lady.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Sandwiches! Sweet Potatoes! Overnight Oats!

I had some leftover Miyoko's Creamery Mozzarella that needed using, and I picked up some Meatless Meatballs at Trader Joe's, so you know what that means! Meatball Subs! I made the marinara from scratch using diced tomatoes from a can, seasoned with herbs and garlic.

We had our monthly Memphis Vegan Drinks meet-up at Imagine Vegan Cafe last Tuesday, and I was all set to order the healthiest thing on the menu (the Southern Staple with beans, greens, and brown rice). But then I saw the daily special – Vegan Fried Chicken Sandwich with Violife cheddar, "honey" mustard, BBQ sauce, and mayo. And well, I needed that.

I mean, just look at that vegan chicken! This was soooo satisfying. The breading on the vegan chicken was so light and crisp. I got garlic kale on the side so I could still get some greens in.

I had two runs yesterday — a 4-miler in the morning and a 3-mile group run with the Crosstown Run Crew. After my morning run, I had this awesome bowl of Overnight Oats with Complement protein powder (my new favorite thing), chia, almond-coconut milk, PB2, walnuts, blueberries, and banana.

And then for dinner, after my 3-miler, I had this yummy Sweet Potato with Vegan Chili & TJ's Cashew Fiesta Dip. I love simple, whole foods-based meals like this!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Soup Season! Plus, Trader Joe's Treasures!

A few weeks back, my friend Nichelle hosted a vegan soup swap, and we all went home with seven different soups, all packed up and ready for the deep freezer. It's so nice to have awesome soups ready for quick week night dinners! Last week, I enjoyed Nichelle's contribution — Spicy Peanut Sweet Potato Soup. She even sent us home with baggies of peanuts for garnish. I also added cilantro and sriracha.

Stephanie made a hearty Black Bean Soup that was perfect with avocado, crushed corn chips, and cashew cheese. I had a salad with cashew ranch on the side. 

That cashew cheese is the Trader Joe's Cashew Fiesta Dip! I finally made the trek out to TJ's in Germantown again last Friday (it'd been awhile) and picked up this amazing dip made from cashews and potatoes. I'm also loving the TJ's Chunky Olive Hummus.

Here's a not-so-attractive-yet-delicious Tofu Veggie Stir-fry made with whatever I could find in my fridge. I had some leftover hoisin tofu from Barb's ramen dish last week, so I water-sauteed that with spinach, carrots, frozen peas, and bell pepper, served over quinoa. Made for an easy and healthy work lunch.

Last week, I had a number of Tofu BLTAs for work lunches. I made some tofu bacon by marinating 'fu in liquid smoke, soy sauce, and maple, then baking it. Served on whole wheat with vegan mayo, tomato, lettuce, and avocado. On the side I had some From the Ground Up Cauliflower Tortilla Chips. These vegan nacho chips are made with cassava and cauliflower! They're good!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Cookies and Doughnuts and Pizza!

I should preface this post with a note that I am still totally rocking 80/20 Plants, the food philosophy that encourages 80% whole foods and 20% indulgent foods each day. But some days are more indulgent than others (say, 60/40, haha). I make up for those days by making sure I have a few days a week that are closer to 90/10 (meaning I'm eating almost exclusively whole foods on those days).

For some, assigning percentages and numbers to what they're eating may seem overly stringent, but this way of eating has really helped me find the balance I needed. I'm eating more healthfully than ever, and for the first time, it's in a way that's sustainable for the long-term. The key is not denying yourself something that you truly want. Like doughnuts. When vegan doughnuts come into my life, I want nothing more than to eat that doughnut.

My co-worker Lily has been perfecting her Vegan Doughnut recipe, and those of us in the office are her taste testers. Happy to oblige! This one was perfect.

I enjoyed that doughnut on Friday after having already eaten a Chocolate Chip Cookie that I made for a co-worker's birthday. Some days are two-dessert days. These are from Isa & Terry's Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and they're perfect.

Here's another indulgent meal from last week. I'd been craving Miyoko's Creamery Mozzarella lately, and I had a leftover Simple Truth Organic pizza crust from a two-pack. So I made a quick Vegan Cheese & Veggie Pizza. The Simple Truth crust is so light and cracker-thin that I ate half a pizza in one meal (this was just my first slice!). I also had a salad with cashew ranch on the side.

Not every meal is pizza and doughnuts of course. My breakfasts are almost always whole food-based — usually smoothies, but sometimes when I've got a few more minutes to sit down, I have Steel Cut Oats with Almond Butter & Fruit.

Last Saturday, my parents came to Memphis because they wanted to eat at Genghis Grill. They love the build-your-own/hibachi concept, and I like this place cause I can get a fairly healthy meal. My stir-fry has brown rice, lots of veggies, and tofu, plus sweet & sour sauce (the only sauce there made without HFCS). I do always add a few crunchy chow mein noodles cause those are fun.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Vegan Brunch at Memphis Rox!

This past Sunday, Juice Almighty, the juice bar inside Memphis Rox Climbing Gym, hosted vegan brunch! It was their first time offering vegan brunch, but they plan to start doing this once a month. Of course I had to go to the first one!

Memphis Rox was opened last year in South Memphis, across from the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, by film director Tom Shadyac. He's best known for directing Jim Carrey movies, like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Bruce Almighty, hence the name of the juice bar. I love nothing more than a good play on words.

Shadyac lives part-time in Memphis, and he's all about giving back to the community. So this climbing gym was opened in a largely disinvested area and offers a sliding scale, pay-what-can model. It's very cool. I've yet to try climbing here, but I'd like to do that soon. For now, I'm excited to have a reason to visit the juice bar for brunch.

The menu looked awesome with burrito bowls, French toast, sausage biscuits, and more. But I opted for the Tofu Scramble with sides of Sourdough Toast and Garlic Greens. I'd just run 8 miles before meeting Megan for brunch, and this protein-rich, carb-heaby meal hit the spot.

Megan ordered what would have been my second choice — Vegan Chicken & Waffles! Crispy Gardein chicken was served with a fluffy waffle.

She also got a side of Tempeh Bacon, which I tried. And it was delish!

I've noticed they also have Beyond Meat options on their regular sandwich/salad menu, so I'll definitely be back to try those and maybe try my hand at climbing while I'm there! The brunch is supposed to happen every third Sunday from 9 am-12:30 pm (which, honestly, is more like breakfast/brunch but ...).

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Vegan Spiralizer Cookbook

My internet friend Barb of That Was Vegan? has a new cookbook! Y'all, this woman is ON FIRE. She's put out two cookbooks in less than a year. It took me five years to put together my first (and only) cookbook. Ha!!

I loved her last book, The Complete Vegan Instant Pot. I borrowed my parents' instant pot to try a few recipes, and now I'm convinced I need my own. And now Barb has rolled out The Vegan Spiralizer Cookbook, which is filled with ways to use vegetable (and fruit!) ribbons, spirals, and shoestrings in your cooking. I have a spiralizer that doesn't see nearly enough use, so I was excited to break it out and try some of her recipes.

The recipes, many accented with full-color pics, are divided by breakfasts, bowls, snack & sides, sandwiches & wraps, mains, desserts, drinks, and staples/sauces.

The first dish I tried was the Maple Sriracha Tempeh Bowl, a hash made with spiralized sweet and white potato and topped with spicy-sweet tempeh and sauteed kale. You fry the potato spirals and they cook down to a tender, crisp hash. The tempeh on top, which is marinated in maple and hot sauce, was so yummy that it barely made it to the bowl (I kept snacking on it from the skillet!).

Next up, I tried the Crispy Tofu Ramen on a particularly cold evening.

Ramen noodles (I used the Koyo baked ramen) are combined sweet potato noodles, mushrooms, and savory-sweet hoisin-coated tofu for this satisfying bowl. The recipe called for veggie broth, but I used the seasoning packets from my ramen (mixed with water) instead. Fresh miso adds to the broth flavor as well.

Y'all, I consider myself a ramen expert. It is my favorite food, after all. And this ramen bowl was top-notch!

I used to think spiralizers were only good for raw zoodles (remember that craze?!), but Barb shows us that you can do so much more with spiral shapes. She uses spiralized apples in her Banana Apple Bread, spiralized plantains in her Black Bean Soup, and spiralized butternut squash in her Cheesy Barbecue Collard Wraps. There's even a drink section with spiralized cucumber mojitos and spiralized mango habanero selzter!

Show your spiralizer some love and GET THIS BOOK!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Review: Lonely Planet's The Vegan Travel Handbook

I don't get out much. I rarely travel anywhere further than a few hours' drive from Memphis. Paid-for work trips are about the only times I fly anywhere. Paul and I did go to Florida this year, but his work paid for almost everything! I've only left the U.S. once when my parents and I spent a few hours in Mexico on a cruise. But I'd like to see the world one day. It's just hard when you have so many pets.

But hey, a girl can dream! Paul and I are hoping to travel to Holland, where his maternal family lives, within the next year. But we've been talking about that trip for years, so we'll see. Whenever we do finally get out into world, Lonely Planet Food's new vegan travel guide (coming December 2019), The Vegan Travel Handbook, will come in handy.

Lonely Planet, the travel guide company, sent me a review copy of their new vegan travel book, and it's a beauty! This illustrated guide is filled with fun graphic elements and full-color photos that make one feel as though they're jet-setting from Ethiopia to Bali to Spain and beyond.

It opens with tips on packing (they suggest always including a jar of peanut butter for emergency PB sandwiches in places where vegan options are hard to find), budgeting (eat breakfast in your hotel room), and vegan apps and travel blogs to help plan your trip. There's even a section on how to tell people you're vegan in 10 languages.

From there, the book breaks down into different countries, which are categorized based on whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, culture, wildlife & nature, a tropical vacation, or a road trip. Countries include Argentina, Ethiopia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bali, Japan, Nordic nations, Switzerland & Northern Italy, Eastern Europe, India, Israel, Spain, Brazil, British Columbia, New Zealand, South Africa, Cambodia, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Malaysia, Austria & Germany, East Coast Australia, the UK, and the West Coast USA.

Each section suggests hotels, experiences (such as places to see local music, shop, hike, etc.), ways to order vegan versions of the local cuisine (very cool!), and vegan restaurants.

I will definitely use this book when we finally make that trip to Europe. I was a little sad to see The Netherlands wasn't included, but other nearby areas, like Germany, are. And I imagine we'll be taking the train around Europe while we're there.

The Vegan Travel Handbook is a great resource! It's coming out in December and is currently available on pre-order from Amazon. It'd make a great holiday gift for your jet-setting friends!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

LuLu's Sunday Brunch at Crosstown Arts

As I sadly mentioned here on the blog a few months ago, the vegan-friendly cafe at Crosstown Arts stopped serving lunch and dinner, moving more to a coffee shop model with pastries and coffee drinks. Since I work right outside the cafe as the communications coordinator for Crosstown Arts, I was really bummed.

But since then, we've been trying to program vegan food events in the cafe space to keep the vegan dream alive! I've been organizing monthly No Meat Meet-up potlucks (though we're skipping November since some local vegans are hosting their annual Thanksgiving potluck at their house instead). And last Sunday, we partnered with LuLu's on a Sunday pop-up brunch!

LuLu's events always bring a crowd, and this was no exception. It was packed! They started at 11 am and ran out of food by 12:30ish! I know to show up early for these, so we were there before opening. And I enjoyed this amazing platter of Biscuit Sliders!

One has tofu egg and housemade vegan cheeze; one has smoked shiitakes; and one has blackeyed pea sausage and jam. I ate every bite! Well, except for the arugula. I wish I could like arugula, but I just don't.

Art Bar — the bar at Crosstown Arts — hosted a satellite bar for the event, offering a build-you-own Bloody Mary and Mimosa Station.

Brunch is not complete without a Bloody Mary, but it's so hard to find vegan versions. The pickled green tomato in this was an especially nice touch!