Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Mardi Gras Eats!

Down South, Mardi Gras is a big deal. It's not as big in Memphis as it is in New Orleans, of course. But we're only six hours away, so the Fat Tuesday partying is definitely a thing here. And, as a lover of all things NOLA, it's one of my favorite holidays!

I started my Fat Tuesday with a locally made Dave's King Cake Bagel stuffed with blackened Cajun tofu, Chao cheese, and spinach. These are plain bagels but with fun Mardi Gras colors! I typically reserve white bread for before or after runs, so I had this immediately after my morning six-miler to re-fuel my carbs.

I always make coffee with chicory to enjoy on Fat Tuesday so I can pretend like I'm lounging on the patio at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.

Every year, I made Kittee Kake's recipe for king cake. It's a no-fail recipe that bakes up a massive king cake! Sadly, I don't think her recipe is online anymore, but I have a printed copy that I've held onto for years. This year, I went with her apple praline filling (cooked, tart apples with cinnamon and vegan butter and maple-y praline pecans). I took this to work, and I'm not sure who found the baby. But the cake was gone by mid-morning.

Here's my slice, enjoyed mid-morning with a second cup of coffee.

My coworker Lily, who runs Darling Donuts, also brought in some vegan King Cake Donuts! I only had a bite of one since I'd already had king cake.

Later in the day, Crosstown Concourse (where I work) held its annual Mardi Gras celebration. We had a second line, a brass band, a puppy costume contest, and free beads for everyone! Here's the pic of the group that did a Beychella flash mob dance!

After the event, I went home and enjoyed an amazing Mardi Gras takeout meal from Imagine Vegan Cafe. They were offering a special with Jambalaya, Red Beans & Rice, and Gumbo — all made with Beyond Sausage. REALLY GOOD!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Cookies, Buns, & Blueberries!

Happy Mardi Gras! I'll have a full Fat Tuesday-themed post tomorrow, but for now, check out this adorable Mardi Gras Cookie I had on Saturday. Picked up from the LuLu's booth at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market.

I also picked up one of Lulu's Smoked Carrot & Cashew Cheddar Buns. I had this after Saturday's 13-miler on the Wolf River Greenway. Excellent car snack on the drive home!

Saturday was National Margarita Day so of course I made one! I always use the tried-and-true basic recipe from The Taco Cleanse cookbook — 2 oz tequila, 1 oz. triple sec, juice of one lime.

Kroger had big tubs of blueberries on sale, so on Sunday, Paul and I made Buckwheat Waffles and topped with lots of berries and banana before our Shelby Farms 10K trail race. Okay, I topped MINE with berries. Paul just smothered his with vegan butter and syrup. HA!

And on Monday, I had another Rip's Big Bowl for breakfast (Uncle Sam's wheat flakes, rolled oats, chia seeds, hemp seeds, trail mix with almonds, chopped dates, blueberries, banana, and almond milk). I love these big nutrition-filled cereal bowls! You can do all kinds of variations, but here's one from the Plant-Strong website.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Casserole & Stir-fry!

I know I post a lot of donuts and french fries these days, but I promise I'm still eating mostly whole foods. I'm sticking to the 80/20 Plants rule (80% whole, 20% treats) most days, so most of the meals I eat at home are whole food, plant-based. Late last week, I made this Pinto Bean & Greens Enchilada Casserole from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook, and it was made entirely of whole foods.

The base of pintos, onions, and kale is topped corn tortillas and then smothered with cashew queso and salsa before baking. The queso bakes into the soft tortillas, making for a very delicious meal. I topped with plenty of avocado and black olives. I will definitely be making this again.

I also made this Tofu Stir-fry last week. I found fresh asparagus on-sale at Kroger, and I sauteed that with some frozen stir-fry veggies and marinated, air-fried tofu. I made a quick sauce with soy sauce, garlic powder, sriracha, and cornstarch. Served over brown rice.

Despite eating whole foods most of the time, I always have white bread bagels before my long runs because white bread breaks down into fuel much quicker than whole grain bread (and it has less chance of upsetting my tummy on runs). Here's a locally made Dave's Blueberry Bagel with 88 Seeds Watermelon Seed Butter before a 20-miler last weekend.

After my runs, I typically have white rice for carb replacement. But one day last week, I ran on the treadmill at the YMCA because it was rainy and cold outside, so I treated myself to a post-run Orange You Glad Juice from Juice Bar in Crosstown Concourse. This has carrot, apple, pineapple, mint, ginger, and lemon.

And finally, here's a lovely 20% treat snack! I met my friend Susan for drinks at Art Bar at Crosstown Arts last Friday. They've added a Vegan Cheese Plate to the bar menu! We snacked on cheese, and I had wine to pair. Very yummy!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Burgers & Breakfasts!

I've been on a burger kick lately! Today, I went to Farm Burger in Crosstown Concourse for lunch and got the Housemade Vegan Burger with tahini, caramelized onion, and red cabbage, plus a side of sweet potato fries. They also carry the Beyond Burger now so yay for options!

Speaking of Beyond, I finally tried Simple Truth's Emerge Plant-Based Burger. This Kroger brand vegan patty is cheaper than Beyond but tastes and looks EXACTLY the same. Enjoyed on a whole wheat bun with Chao cheese, vegan mayo, spicy ghost pepper pickles, and dijon. I made sweet potato fries in the air fryer (way healthier than the ones I had at Farm Burger today!).

I've been listening to the Engine 2 Plant-Strong podcast lately on my runs, and host Rip Esselstyn is always talking about his Rip's Big Bowl. You can buy the Rip's Big Bowl cereal at Whole Foods, but on the podcast, he gives the recipe to make it at home. I didn't have all the ingredients, but I made a few substitutions. This has Uncle Sam's wheat flakes (they're in his recipe), rolled oats, chia seeds, ground flax, walnuts, dried cranberries, blueberries, banana, and almond milk. It's really good and very filling! This is a nice rest day (from workouts) breakfast.

When I was in Nashville last weekend, we got a hotel room just for fun! And I brought along my usual travel breakfast of an oat cup and nut butter. I had Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan Oats with 88 Acres Vanilla Sunbutter.

And I picked up this vegan Starbucks Frappucino (made with almondmilk) at a gas station to enjoy with my breakfast. I wouldn't normally drink this since I can save the $4 and make great iced coffee at home. But when you're on the road, it's nice to have a milky iced coffee option that's so widely available!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

No Meat Meet-Up #5

We had the fifth No Meat Meet-up Vegan Potluck at the cafe at Crosstown Arts, where I work. I'm so lucky to work in a vegan-supportive workplace, where as part of my job, I'm tasked with organizing a monthly vegan potluck! This time, we even got some press in the Memphis Flyer, thanks to my food-writing friend, Lorna Field. Every month, I'm just amazed at all the new faces who come out for this. I'm making new vegan friends every month!

Since I spent the weekend in Nashville for Valentine's Day, I had to come up with something quick and easy, so I made my Tofu Egg & Olive Salad from my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk. This simple salad is made with crumbled tofu, vegan mayo, green olives, celery, red onion, and spices (lots of black salt!). I brought some melba toast for scooping.

For this potluck, we invited our Crosstown Arts resident artists to join in. We host artists from all over the world for residencies in Crosstown Concourse. Since they don't have kitchens in their small apartments, we asked our chef and sous chef (who cook meals for residents) to make a few potluck dishes. They contributed a Pasta Salad and a Green Salad with Coriander Dressing.

And they also gave us lots of vegan pastries!! Muffins, cookies, scones, and blueberry coffee cake! Susan brought the amazing bundt cake from the Veganomicon (served with Nada Moo ice cream), and that was a big hit.

Nicole made this beautiful Avocado Tartar!

Clarita and James are doing a Forks and Knives meal plan right now, so they brought this hearty and healthy whole foods-based Veggie Stew.

Shay made a yummy throw-everything-in-the-pot Veggie Chili, which she served with corn chips.

This Vegan Caesar Salad with Roasted Chickpeas was fantastic. Loved how many salads we had this time!

And this Rainbow Tofu Noodle Salad was the star of the show! There was also a great polenta dish, a yummy blackeyed pea salad, and several more late additions that I forgot to photograph.

If you live in (or near) Memphis and want to come to the next No Meat Meet-up, we'll be dining at 3 pm on Sunday, March 29 at the cafe at Crosstown Arts.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

KFC's Beyond Nuggets!!

KFC is testing Beyond Nuggets, a plant-based alternative to chicken nuggets, at 100 locations in (and around) Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina through the month of February. Since Paul works in Nashville and stays there part-time, I opted to go there for Valentine's Day rather than have him come to Memphis, so I could try the nuggets! I stopped in Dickson, Tennessee, about a half-hour west of Nashville, to try them.

Y'ALL, THESE NUGGETS ARE AMAZING!! I got a small 4-piece snack, but these are also available as a 6-piece with fries. You can get them undressed or tossed with buffalo or BBQ sauce. I wasn't sure about the vegan-ness of either sauce, so I opted for plain.

Here's an inside look. These seriously look, feel, and taste like chicken. I believe these would fool any meat-eater.

Back in 2004-2005, I spent many weekends with my animal rights group, Memphis Area Animal Rights Activists, outside Memphis KFCs, holding PETA protest signs and spreading the message about KFC cruelty. KFC was (and probably still is) notorious for sourcing their chicken from especially cruel suppliers. But I believe this move to add plant-based chicken is a step in the right direction. PETA's current KFC campaign is focused on getting the chain to roll-out vegan chicken nationwide, and it seems to be working.

I believe in using my vegan dollar to demonstrate demand for plant-based options at mainstream restaurant chains. Even if those chains have plenty of other issues, it's important for us vegans to show them they're moving in the right direction.

Of course these nuggets were fried in the same oil as the chicken. And that's not a problem for me. Avoiding cross-contamination is an issue of personal purity, and that's fine for vegans who can't bear the thought of their food coming into contact with meat. But ethically, I believe it's more important to show support for these options than to avoid them due to potential cross-contamination. No additional animals are harmed from using the same oil or grill to prepare food.

I think KFC's addition of Beyond Nuggets is giant step for animals, and I support that! I hope they'll do a nationwide roll-out soon! 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Valentine's Day Eats!

I took Valentine's Day off work because I had a 20-mile training run to squeeze into a very packed weekend. And who doesn't want a self-care day off work on Valentine's Day? Even though I had no business being in Crosstown Concourse since I was off work, I still came to up the building bright and early to get myself a VEGAN DONUT! Lily from Darling Donuts made a special batch of Valentine's donuts to sell at French Truck Coffee for the occasion, and I had to have one.

I didn't get to eat it right away though. I still had that 20-mile run first, and a donut before a long run sounds like a recipe for a stomachache. So I had a blueberry bagel with nut butter instead and then hit the trails at Shelby Farms. I had a great run and enjoyed my donut after a proper post-run snack of white rice, banana, and protein smoothie.

I had plans to go visit Paul in Nashville on Saturday, and we planned to do our date night then. So on Friday, I stayed home and had a nice dinner of White Bean & Veggie Pasta with salad and wine. Date night with myself! This was perfect because I was truly pooped after that run.

The next day, I got up early, squeezed in an hour-long recovery run, and then hit the road for Nashville. I had a very amazing lunch on the road, but I'm saving that for an entire post tomorrow! I also stopped at KOKOS Plant-Based Ice Cream in Nashville on the way to meet up with Paul. I got to town before he was off work and had some time to kill anyway, so ice cream!!! I got two scoops of Biscoffee Ice Cream (coffee ice cream flecked with bits of Biscoff coffee), and it was seriously the best cone of my life.

I met up with Paul after he got off work, and we headed to dinner at The Smiling Elephant. It's a quaint little Thai place that had super-awesome reviews, and everything I'd read about them said they really understood what it means when someone orders vegan. Paul and I both love Thai, and I knew we could agree on this place. Look at his "Somebody in Memphis Loves Me" tee! I gave him that for V-Day and made him wear it. 

We started with the Fresh Rolls, made with rice noodles, cilantro (Paul picked his out), bean sprouts, and carrots.

For our entrees, we decided to split two dishes so we could try more things! We got the Pad See Ew with tofu. They use bean thread noodles rather than rice noodles, and they really soak up the soy sauce flavor and color. Plus, it has broccolini!! Pad See Ew is my favorite Thai dish, and this one was excellent.

And we got the Panang Curry with tofu. Panang curry is Paul's favorite dish, and he said this one was his second favorite he's ever had (the favorite is from Bhan Thai in Memphis). I really liked it too! Coconutty and spicy with lots of crunchy veggies. I enjoyed my half with brown rice, and Paul had white jasmine rice.

A very lovely two-day Valentine's celebration!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Bowls! Bars! Galentine's!

Happy Galentine's Day! February 13 is just as important as February 14 because it's the day to celebrate with all your female-identifying friends! My friend Jennifer and I met up for a Galentine's Day dinner at Imagine Vegan Cafe tonight. I'm doing a 20-mile training run tomorrow, so I figured I should carb load with the Vegan Ravioli with Garlic Bread. I added a side of vegan garlic kale.

My gal Susan left me a vegan Peanut Butter Bar from Muddy's Bake Shop in my mailbox the other day! So I enjoyed it yesterday with some tea in the afternoon.

Here's a yummy bowl I whipped up the other night. All you need is a grain, a green, and a bean for a perfect meal! This has brown rice, roasted brussels sprouts and mushrooms, sauteed kale and chickpeas, and a tahini sauce made with coconut nectar and soy sauce.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Tacos! Nachos! Carrot Dogs!

On Monday night, I had a board meeting at The Doghouzz, the new(ish) hot dog bar across from Crosstown Concourse. I love their carrot dog, which I've ordered before from the build-your-own menu. But this time, I ordered the Crosstown Carrot Dog from their signature menu. This has relish, pickle chips, and Asian slaw, served atop a grilled and braised carrot. I got a side of pinto beans and a Monday Night Brewing (cause hey, it was Monday night!) Blind Pirate Blood Orange IPA.

Last Saturday night, my friend Brandy had a few folks over to celebrate Imbolc (a little late) and help her bless her new house with good energy. She had a nice spread set out when we arrived — vegan chicken salad, olive bread with hummus, chips and salsa. I brought what was supposed to be a vegan cheeseball, but despite having made this recipe a number of times, I forgot that it had to set for four hours in the fridge in order to ball it up. So instead, we had cheese spread! Megan brought some homemade seeded bread and hummus with carrots. I also brought some Eat Pastry chocolate chip cookies (baked with their pre-made cookie dough!).

On Sunday night, I made another recipe from last month's Health Made Simple Plan — Baby Bella Tacos! These oil-free, whole food-based tacos are made with black beans, baby bellas, avocado, cilantro, scallion, and red cabbage. I served them with air-fried tortilla chips and Siete Foods cashew queso.

I had taco leftovers the next day, but there was still so much filling left! So on Tuesday for lunch, I made the leftover filling into nachos! It's the same ingredients, but nachos are slightly easier to eat at your desk at work. Slightly! For this, I used homemade air-fried tortilla chips. They're low-oil and so easy to make. I just cut corn tortillas into triangles, spray with a bit of spray oil, dust with salt, and air-fry for about 8 minutes on 350 degrees.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Brekky Sandwiches! Donuts! Indian Food!

On Sunday, my friends from LuLu's hosted a pop-up brunch at the cafe at Crosstown Arts. They had three options — a brekky sandwich, a brekky fried rice bowl, and a brekky plate. I opted for the Brekky Sandwich on their fresh-baked English muffin with tofu egg, beet blackeyed pea sausage, and cashew cheese. Served with a side salad with butter lettuce, smoky pecans, and tahini.

Speaking of LuLu's, I also went by their CY Farmers Market booth on Saturday morning and picked up a Baby Foccacia, which I enjoyed after my 15-mile run! Perfect post-run carbs with a side salad.

I also grabbed a Chocolate Cherry Biscotti from LuLu's. I had this with some herbal tea while watching the Oscars on Sunday. Chocolately cherry crunchy goodness!

Donuts!! My co-worker Lily surprised us at work with more vegan donuts from her company, Darling Donuts, last week!! I had half a glazed and a half a maple stick. There is nothing I love more than a good donut. NOTHING.

And finally, here's some yummy Indian food! I met my friends Mike and Andy for dinner at India Palace on Friday night. I got the Turka Daal (made with yellow split peas) and enjoyed that with basmati rice and pappadum. The crispy pappadum, dipped into tamarind chutney and mint chutney, is my favorite part of any North Indian meal.