Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day Recap!

Sorry for the long pause without a post. I'm off work until January 4th, and I'm finding it difficult to do things that involve being on the internet. Well, unless you count Netflix. I've been doing a lot of that! But I've paused my show (currently watching Mindhunter) for a quick Christmas update. 

On Christmas Eve, I drove to my parents' house in Arkansas around mid-day. As I've done throughout 2020, I quarantined for 14 days before the visit. When I arrived, my mom was already starting on dinner. We don't do the traditional Christmas meal with vegan ham and dressing and casseroles. Instead, we tend to pick a new theme every year. This year, my mom went with finger foods. She made chicken wings for her and my dad, and she made some Field Roast Fruffalo Wings for me! We all ate the mini Field Roast Corn Dogs, and we had fries and Vegan Cheese-stuffed Cucumbers.

The cucumbers were stuffed with Treeline Garlic-Herb Cashew Cheese and sprinkled with a little garlic powder and paprika. 

After dinner, we made Vegan Sugar Cookies! No Meat Athlete sent out this recipe in an email a few days before Christmas, and I wanted to try them. They turned out great (though we did end up using 3 cups of flour rather than the 1 3/4 cup called for), and we had such fun decorating them. My mom and dad were carefully painting the cookies, and strategically placing sprinkles, while I slapped on frosting. The ugly ones were mine!

After Christmas Eve dinner every year, I meet up with my BFF Sheridan and her partner Drew to exchange gifts. They live in Little Rock, but they're always home for the holidays as well. This year, we made sure to keep our masks on and socially distance as we opened gifts. We were planning to do the exchange on the porch, but it was an unseasonable 19 degrees on Christmas Eve night. 

The next morning, my parents and I slept in, and then we partook in my favorite tradition — Christmas breakfast! Up until a few years ago, we did had annual breakfast at my Granny's, and a few other family members would come. But after Granny passed, my mom just started cooking breakfast for my dad, herself, and me. This year, we had Beyond Sausage, Just Egg, Biscuits & Gravy, and Hash Browns. 

We opened gifts after breakfast. I got a new MacBook Air, which I'm typing on now, to replace my dead MacBook Pro. I also got a new Ikea bookcase and lots of lounging attire because 2020. Who wears real pants anymore?

When we finished presents, my mama and I drove over to Me-Maw's house to bring her my gift and some Christmas breakfast leftovers. I love my Me-Maw! She's such a sassy lady. 

Around 4 pm, I made the drive back to Memphis, and I had myself a merry little Christmas with some Biltmore Christmas wine I'd picked up on our October trip to Asheville. I usually get Chinese takeout on Christmas night, but I had a planned virtual half-marathon in the morning and knew I needed to eat a little lighter. So I made the Unfried Rice from Appetite for Reduction and added tofu. 

2020 may have been a craphole of a year, but this Christmas was amazing! The next day, on the 26th, I drove to Nashville to have a late Christmas with Paul, but I'll share those pics in a later post. This is about all of the computer I can take on this vacay day. Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Winter Solstice Feast!

Quick post tonight! I just wanted to share some pics of my Winter Solstice/Yule meal. Monday was the Solstice (and the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, which will usher in the Age of Aquarius ... but that's a whole other story), and I celebrated with a feast and presents with the pets. 

I'm off work until January 4th, and Monday was my last day before vacation. So as soon as work ended, I made a celebratory Yuletini. This (and all of the recipes I made) are from the Llewellyn's Sabbats Almanac, which has rituals, recipes, and astrology lessons for all of the Sabbat holidays. For this cocktail, I started some infused cranberry vodka back at Samhain (Halloween). I cracked that vodka open and mixed with whole cranberry sauce, orange juice, and sparkling water for this martini.

For the main dish, the Llewellyn's book (which is not vegan or even vegetarian) suggests a Lemon Chicken dish with crispy rice. I really enjoy veganizing these recipes, so I took on the challenge of making the lemon chicken recipe, which called for chicken breast. 

I used Gardein Scalllopini, coated in cornstarch, and then fried in oil. It's topped with a sweet and tangy lemon sauce. The Crispy Rice Cake dish was already vegan — just white rice, salt, and margarine (I used Earth Balance). You just press the rice into a pan and cook, without stirring, until it is crispy on one side. I also slow-simmered some collard greens that were in my CSA using my Mess O' Greens recipe from Cookin' Crunk.

The dessert was the star of the show though! The Brandy Alexander Pie (like a pie version of the classic Brandy Alexander cocktail) called for heavy whipping cream, marshmallows, brandy, cream de cacao, and a cookie crust.

I used Sprouts chocolate sandwich creams for the cookie crust, Silk heavy whipping cream for the cream, and Dandies for the marshmallows. Cream de cacao is vegan, but I couldn't find any small airplane bottles, and I only needed 1.5 ounces for the recipe. So I googled substitutions for cream de cacao and found that chocolate syrup also works. I didn't have that either, but I found an easy recipe to make your own. For the brandy, I was able to find a tiny bottle of Paul Masson. 

This pie was REALLY good! It's creamy and chocolately and has that slight boozy hint from the brandy. I've been enjoying a daily slice this week! Hope y'all have an awesome Christmas! I'll report back sometime next week!

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Last Brekky Sandwich + Biscotti + Loaded Sweet Potatoes

This past weekend was the last for LuLu's at Puck Food Hall. Puck is officially closed, and LuLu's is looking for a new space. In the meantime, they'll be at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market every Saturday! But I will miss my Friday morning tradition of stopping in for a brekky sandwich or a bagel. They'll have all kinds of breads and treats at the market, but they won't have a griddle to make the brekky sandwiches. Last Friday, I stopped in for my last to-go Brekky Sandwich. And I dare say, it was the best one ever. Something about the cashew cheese. It was extra garlicky this time! YUM.

I also picked up some Cranberry Almond Biscotti from LuLu's, which I enjoyed on Saturday after my 10-mile run. These crunchy cookie slabs were so amazing dipped in my coffee (with Silk peppermint mocha almond creamer).

For dinner on Friday night (and lunch on Saturday), I had the Fully Loaded Sweet Potato from the Hooked on Plants e-book. This baked sweet tater is topped with black beans, brown rice, guacamole, homemade salsa, and cashew cheese. Enjoyed with a side salad (made with local lettuce and tomato from my CSA).

On Saturday night, I had a Tofu TLT on pita bread. This has bacony tofu (marinated in liquid smoke, maple, and soy sauce) with local lettuce and tomato, and I used hummus in place of mayo. 

On Sunday night, I made the Throat Chakra Soup from Eat Feel Fresh. I've been working on balancing my chakras all year, and as I work on each one, I make the corresponding chakra soup from this cookbook. This one has cauliflower, onion, garlic, blended cashews, and veggie broth, and it gets its blue color from butterfly pea flower powder. The recipe called for blue spirulina, but it was expensive on Amazon! The pea powder was much cheaper, and I'd been wanting to get some for moon milk anyway!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Italian Takeout! Tacos! Tofu!

Tonight (Takeout Thursday!), I ordered delivery from Pizzeria Trasimeno in Crosstown Concourse. They deliver for free within four miles of Concourse, and I'm quarantining for Christmas, so delivery it was! They just added a Perugia Panini (roasted veggie with vegan pesto) to their menu, and I was excited to try it. It has roasted red peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, red onions, and artichoke hearts with vegan pesto on fresh-baked focaccia. It was still warm from the oven when it arrived on my doorstep!

They also just added Wood-fired Olives to the menu, and I love olives! So I added that to my order. They're served with sliced, toasted baguette. Nothing beats the combo of warm olives, warm bread, and cold wine (from a box, in my fridge). 

Last Taco Tuesday, I had an 8-mile run on the training schedule. I typically run in the mornings, but finding time to run longer that 6-7 miles is tough before work. So I decided to move my run to the evening. Plus, it's super-cold here all of a sudden with temps in the 30s (y'all, I know that's not cold if you live up North, but down South, that's COLD. We're not acclimated for that kind of weather!). Turns out, the temps never warmed above 35, and when I headed out for a run at 5:30 pm, it was SNOWING. It's not supposed to snow in Memphis! Anyway, it was beautiful, even though it didn't stick or last long. 

I came home to warm Black Bean Potato Tacos. I had everything cooked and ready to reheat when I walked in the door. Black beans cooked with spinach, corn, and spices and air-fried potatoes. Topped with guac and some Daiya. Just what I needed!

Last night, I made the Pan-Seared Ginger Lime Tofu from Clean Start by Terry Walters and served it atop some stir-fried bok choy, mushrooms, and brown rice. The tofu was glazed with a lime-maple-ginger-soy sauce, and it was so delicious.

I'm trying to cook my way through my massive cookbook collection by choosing one or two recipes per book, and I'm loving this book. It's organized by seasons, and this was in the fall chapter. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Cookbook Review: Evolving Vegan

I've got a lot of cookbooks. Hundreds. In fact, I just did a big KonMari purge of my cookbook collection and made a donate pile of at least 50 to 60 books, and I still have so many. But in all of my collection, I don't have another single book like Evolving Vegan by Mena Massoud. 

Mena is best-known for his role as Aladdin in the Disney live-action film, and his book features a combination his personal recipes, his mother's traditional Egyptian recipes, his favorite recipes from vegan restaurants across the country, and his recreated versions of restaurant recipes. That combo makes for such a fun and diverse mix of recipes!

First, I tried the Indian Tofu Curry, a recipe submitted by The Sudra restaurant in Portland, Oregon. 

This spicy curry gets its flavor from a sunflower-jalapeno saag made with ginger, garlic, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. It's tossed with tofu, red onion, and spinach and served over rice. It's been awhile since I've made an Indian dish at home that tasted restaurant-quality, but this one did! I will make this again and again. 

Next, I tried the Chick'n Schnitzel from YamChops in Toronto, Canada. Mena said he serves this seitan cutlet with marinara and mushrooms on a bun, so that's how I tried it first.

Also, without a bun and some kale on the side.

I'd made this on a weekend when Paul was home because he grew up in the Netherlands and ate a lot of German food (I guess because the countries are so close?). He loves schnitzel, but he said he'd never had it with tomato sauce. He remembered having schnitzel with mushroom gravy, so we had it that way too. I much prefer the gravy way!

This recipe reminded me of the famous chickpea cutlets from Veganomican but without the chickpeas. The patties are so versatile, and I have a couple left in the freezer for later.

I have lots of other recipes bookmarked. From Mena's home kitchen recipes, I want to try his Sweet Potato Lasagna (sweet potato slices stand in for noodles!) and his Only-Plants-Allowed Burger (loaded with veggies, beans, and walnuts). His mom's Koshare (an Egyptian street food dish with lentils, rice, and pasta) and Basbousa (coconut crumble cake) look fantastic. And the Stranger Wings Pizza from Virtuous Pie in Vancouver (with buffalo cauliflower, blue cheese dressing, and bechamel sauce) has my mouth watering.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Holiday Donuts! Indian Food! Noodles!

Darling Donuts has been killing it with the themed holiday boxes! I last ordered from my friend Lily's vegan donut business when she had the Spooky Box back at Halloween. She did Thanksgiving donuts too, but I knew I would be deep in pie that month, so I skipped those. But I couldn't resist the Holiday Box! I ordered a half-dozen on Saturday. There's Hot Cocoa, Sno-Cap, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, and Gingerbread.

The Hot Cocoa and Sno-Cap are yeasted, and the others were cake. That was perfect for me because yeasted donuts don't stay as fresh, so I dug into those first. I had my last gingerbread cake today, and it was still moist and delicious. 

I'd been craving Indian takeout for awhile, so last Thursday, after bootcamp in the park, I grabbed some Chana Masala with Roti and Samosa from Golden India. I rarely get Indian takeout because I prefer South Indian food, but Midtown only has North Indian restaurants. The South Indian joints are, like, 30 minutes away!

I also get nervous about ghee, but I noticed Golden India has added V's to some of their menu items, which I assume means "vegan" since the V wasn't by any of the vegetarian paneer dishes. I did see a few V's on dishes that clearly had yogurt listed as an ingredient. So I wouldn't trust those V's completely, but it seemed fairly spot-on. They also have a place where you can request special instructions when you order online, so I specified "no butter." With stuff like this, I just hope for the best. 

Hillary of My Cat Loves Daiya has been blogging about Wil Yeung's YouTube channel for awhile. He makes awesome vegan Asian recipes! Last Wednesday, I had planned to make a tofu bok choy stir-fry with brown rice, but I was really craving noodles. So I google-searched "bok choy noodles vegan" and one of his YouTube videos for 10-Minute Weeknight Noodles came up! I checked it out and had all the ingredients, so I went for it! I added tofu to the recipe, and I used brown rice noodles instead of the flour-style noodles he uses. Fast and easy!

On Soup Sunday this past weekend, I made the Greek Lemon Rice Soup from My Best Vegan Comfort Food Recipes by FoodbyMaria. It's an e-book that I got in the No Meat Athlete Health & Fitness Bundle. This simple soup has brown rice, celery, carrots, onion, tahini, miso, and lemon juice. It was so warming and satisfying on a cold, rainy night.

This morning, I used another e-book from the bundle — the Hooked on Plants Cookbook — to make these Superfood Quinoa Oats. This has a mix of quinoa, rolled oats, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, chia seed, flax seed, goji berries, and dried cranberries, topped with maple syrup, blackberries, and coconut yogurt. It was a nice change from my usual morning oats!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Tacos! Taco Salad! Taco Bowls!

Look, I know it's Monday, but is it ever too early in the week to talk about tacos? I'm already dreaming about the black bean and potato tacos I'm going to eat tomorrow after my evening run. Let's talk about some tacos (and taco-related items) from the recent past.

Last Tuesday, I picked up the Global Café Taco Tuesday special for an awesome takeout meal at home! They've started offering a deal every Tuesday where you get four tacos of your choice with free chips and salsa, and then you can add on a margarita for $2.95. I think I paid around $12 for all this food! Maybe $14? But I did add avocado to my order so I could add that to my Black Bean Tacos, and they give you a LOT of avo in one order. The salsa was habanero garlic and mango pico de gallo. And the margarita was fantastic! The manager/bar guru Juan makes his margs very strong! One is all you need. Oh, and there were about twice as many chips as you see here. I just portioned them so I wouldn't eat the whole bag at once.

Here's a recent Taco Salad. I had this for lunch the day before my St. Jude virtual half-marathon. I love having grain-filled salads the day before a race. They say you should watch fiber intake before race day, but as a long-time vegan, my gut microbiome is pretty sturdy. I can handle a lot of fiber without issue! This has lettuce, quinoa, black beans, avocado, roasted corn, and salsa, plus some Simple Truth vegan sour cream.

On Black Friday, I purchased the No Meat Athlete Health & Fitness Bundle, which had a whole bunch of awesome vegan e-cookbooks. There's one called Plant-Based Power Bowls, and I made this Mexican Power Bowl from it. It has roasted acorn squash, bell pepper, onion, and garlic over Mexican rice with homemade refried beans, mango pico salsa, homemade oat/nooch-based cheese sauce, guac, and homemade tortilla chips. It took forever to make since each element was homemade, but it made enough for three bowls, so lunch was covered for a couple days. Really yummy and fun to eat!

Here's a recent breakfast of Avocado Toast with Pan-Seared Tofu.

And here's my Friday morning treat from LuLu'sSalted Plain Bagel with Cashew Cream Cheese and Muscadine Jam. The space LuLu's is in — Puck Food Hall — is closing after next weekend, so I only have one Friday at LuLu's left! I'm so sad. They will continue to sell food at the Cooper Young Farmers Market, so I'll see them there. And I hope they find a new space soon!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Frittata Time! Plus, Rice Bowl & Rice Noodz

Last Thursday, I had a rare morning off running because I was tapering for my St. Jude 2-Race 10K/Half-Marathon Challenge. So I traded my usual post-run breakfast of protein oats for a fancy Chickpea Frittata. When I don't run, I have way more time in the mornings, so I was able to fit in a Yoga with Adriene video and whip up this hearty breakfast from Eat Feel Fresh.

This frittata is made with chickpea flour, and I added the recommended veggies for my vata dosha — sweet potato and spinach. I roasted the sweet potatoes in the air fryer first and then added to the batter. You bake this in the oven and top with avocado. Here it is fresh out of the oven!

It made a big frittata, so I had half for breakfast on Thursday and saved the rest for Sunday's lazy breakfast. I also usually run on Sundays, but I took that day off to recover from the 2-Race Challenge. I was out of avocado on Sunday, so I melted some Chao cheese on top. 

The night before I ran the 10K in that 2-Race Challenge, I had a really awesome bowl inspired by Hillary from My Cat Loves Daiya. A couple weeks ago, she posted a rice/tofu/lettuce/avocado/peanut sauce bowl, and I knew I wanted to make it. I had some satay sauce in the pantry and everything else on-hand, even the avocado! So I made the bowl, ate the whole thing, and realized I'd forgotten the avocado. Still amazing! But I need to make it again with avo.

And here's a recent Soup Sunday meal. I found Ocean's Halo Thai Coconut Broth on clearance at Kroger for 75 cents! So I made some Tofu & Mushroom Brown Rice Ramen with it. The broth was very lime-y (maybe a little too much so), but it was good. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Race Recap: St. Jude Virtual 10K & Half-Marathon

The first weekend in December is always St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend here. It's a big deal! The city shuts down most of Midtown and downtown for the marathon route, and everyone basically has three options: 1) run the race, 2) come out and cheer on the runners, or 3) plan to stay home all day because there's no way you're going to be able to navigate through the city without hitting a race course roadblock. I always go with option #1!

This fundraiser raises so much money for St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, which provides free medical care for children with catastrophic diseases, particularly leukemia and other cancers. This year, however, the race was forced to go virtual, thanks to the pandemic. But that didn't stop Memphis runners (and runners all over the world!) from signing up. 

Every virtual race is a little different, and for this one, you could pick one distance (5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon) and commit to running it anywhere you wanted on race day (December 5). Or you could pick two distances or all four for the 2-Race or 4-Race Challenge. If you opted to do that, you committed to running the longest distance on Dec. 5 and the others any day you wanted leading up to race day. I signed up for the 10K and half-marathon and opted to do them back-to-back to make it a real challenge. I ran my 10K on Friday morning before work!

Y'all, I shaved about a minute off my 10K PR (personal record)! St. Jude provided an app for official time tracking, and it included the actual race course for those who wanted to try and follow it. You could run the race anywhere, but I tried to stay on the real course downtown. Just for fun! I felt strong and fast, and my PR came pretty easily. I've been working on my speed all year!

After my run, I stopped my LuLu's (which is also downtown) for my usual Friday morning treat. I got the Brekky Sandwich (tofu egg, smoked beets, cashew cheese) on an Everything Bagel and enjoyed it on the drive back to Midtown.

The next day, I was set to run the St. Jude Half-Marathon. I've run many half-marathons but never the day after running a fast 10K, so I had no idea what to expect. I did a little muscle massage on Friday night and made sure to focus on whole foods for recovery. Surprisingly, I wasn't all that sore when I woke up Saturday morning.

I had my usual pre-run breakfast of overnight oats, and then I headed back downtown to run on the half-marathon course. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many other St. Jude runners in their St. Jude Heroes singlets, race bibs, and tech shirts. Everyone was running their own race on their own course, but we all passed each other quite often. Any time I'd see another runner in a St. Jude shirt, I'd smile and wave, and they would too. 

A couple of crazy synchronicities happened early on. St. Jude runners who raise money for the hospital are called St. Jude Heroes, and they had a special Heroes car driving around downtown, honking at runners. I had David Bowie's "Heroes" on my playlist, and the line that says "We can be heroes just for one day" was playing in my headphones as the car passed me on Front Street and honked and waved. Crazy! Brought me to tears a little bit.

And then, just a few blocks away, Florida-Georgia Line's "This Is How We Roll" came on my playlist right as I passed the intersection of Florida Street and Georgia Avenue. WHAT?! So weird! Also, y'all, I don't care for country music, but I like that song because Jason DeRulo has a little rap in it, and it's fun. My running music is super cheesy and inspirational AF.

After those two events, I just knew it was going to be a good run. And that was only mile 3! But I was right. I kept a steady and quick pace the whole 13.1 miles, and I ended with a two-minute PR! That's two PRs in two races in two days. I wasn't really trying to beat my previous times in either run, but I was just in a great flow state. That happens sometimes! The runners' high is real. 

The coolest thing about doing the 2-Race Challenge is that I got a third medal just for that. And it's big! Look at all this bling.

After my run, I treated myself to a Big Smack (like a vegan Big Mac) from Imagine Vegan Cafe, with cheese fries on the side. I definitely earned it! This has two vegan beef patties, special sauce, pickles, onions, and that double bun action. I rarely order it because it seems so decadent, but I was hangry after my races.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Cookbook Review: The Vegan Cookbook for Kids

My internet friend Barb of That Was Vegan has a new cookbook out! This woman has been steadily putting out cookbooks lately! Her new book, The Vegan Cookbook for Kids, is one that I probably wouldn't have gravitated toward in a store since I don't have human children (just fur babies!). But after glancing through the review copy, I realized that I am actually a big kid!

All of the easy, healthy recipes are designed so that kids can make them, but they also happen to be delicious enough for an adult to enjoy. I picked a few recipes to try! 

Last Friday night, the night before my St. Jude virtual half-marathon (which I got a PR in!!), I carb-loaded with the Pasta & Beanballs. These balls are made from kidney beans, bread crumbs, and spices, and they come together quickly. The recipe calls for a jarred sauce, which I intended to use, but realized about halfway through cooking that I was out of it! So I whipped up a from-scratch sauce using canned diced tomatoes.

For my mid-day snacks this week, I've been munching on Barb's Chipotle Sweet Potato Dip with Laiki black rice crackers and veggies. This creamy dip is made with blended cooked sweet potato, cashews, and spices. And though it does have chipotle powder in it, it's not at all spicy (which is a good thing for kids!).

I also made Pizza Toast! This recipe is more of a snack suggestion since it just calls for bread, pizza sauce, and cheese. I used Italian herb bagels! The photo with the recipe was one of bagels (even though the recipe says any sliced bread will work), and that made me crave bagels. Nothing is more satisfying that pizza on a bagel, y'all. 

The book covers breakfasts, snacks, soups/salads/sandwiches, dinners, and desserts. All the basics! Some other recipes I'd like to make soon: Breaded No-Chicken Nuggets (made with tofu!), Pizza Soup (yes, you read that right!), Creamy Bacon & Pea Pasta (with tempeh bacon), Sloppy Joe Casserole, and the PB&J Ice Cream Pie (WHAT?!). 

Whether you have a kid or not, if you love simple vegan meals, you'll love this book. Eating like a kid is just more fun!