Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pizza! Curry! Kale!

Imagine Vegan Cafe has been killing it lately! To keep the takeout business alive and booming, they've been really stepping it up with specials and more desserts than ever. Last Friday, they had PIZZA NIGHT! Imagine doesn't offer pizza anymore on the regular menu, but they occasionally offer it on special. They had a number of pizza options last Friday, but I picked Buffalo Chicken Pizza with vegan mozz, carrots, celery, and vegan ranch (plus, garlic butter for dipping!). OH MY GAWD, y'all. So amazing. I ate on this pizza for days!!

I had everything in my well-stocked pantry and fridge to make the Better Than Takeout Curry from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook last night, so I whipped this up. It's one of my favorite recipes from the book, and I was excited to enjoy it again. This has red lentils, cauliflower, sweet potato, white potato, bell pepper, and carrots so it's loaded with veggies!

I also had everything to make the Classic Kale Salad from that same cookbook, so I made a small batch to enjoy as a pre-dinner snack over the next couple days. Kale is massaged with olive oil and vinegar and tossed with beets, carrots, bell pepper, celery, seeds, and dried fruit (I used sunflower and cranberries). I love snacking on salad before dinner!

And finally, here's ANOTHER bowl of Overnight Oats! I can't get enough! This is topped with blueberries, strawberries, banana, and coconut clusters.

As you can see, my made-at-home meals are waaaaay healthier than my takeout meals, as it should be!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Picnic Time! Pasta! Cabbage Stew!

Paul's 40th birthday was April 19, but he was in Nashville that weekend (he works in Nashville and lives in Memphis part-time). Of course, we couldn't have a proper party with the pandemic underway, so I organized a Zoom call with a bunch of friends. And I promised him some sort of quarantine-appropriate celebration when he was back in Memphis. So this past Sunday, we had a little birthday picnic — just the two of us!

We rode our bikes to Overton Park and laid out a nice spread of both vegan and non-vegan options (for him). I'll just show the vegan stuff though — Lulu's Country Bread and La Brea Rosemary Olive Oil Bread, Miyoko's Mozz, Dolmas, Chips & Bean Dip, Seitan Pepperoni, and Grapes/Strawberries. My favorite picnic meals consist of bread, cheese, fruit, and wine!

Paul isn't much of a cook, but he developed one recipe a few weeks ago that he really loves to make. So last night, I asked him to cook that for us for dinner. Here's Paul's Cabbage Surprise! It's a stew with cabbage, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Really great with crusty bread (leftover from the picnic).

I got a bunch of tomatoes at the CY Farmers Market a couple Saturdays ago, and amazingly, they're still fresh! I used one whole tomato in this simple pasta dish on Monday night. I tossed whole wheat pasta with garlic olive oil, fresh tomato, and herbs. Topped with vegan parm and bits of Miyoko Mozz (also leftover from the picnic).

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Why 16:8 Fasting Doesn't Work For Me

I'm in the home stretch of the No Meat Athlete 30-Day Intermittent Fasting Challenge, and I've learned a few things about myself! In this gradual weekly build to 16:8 fasting, the last week (week 4) was supposed to be dedicated to 16:8 fasting every day, except for one 12:12 fast on your long run day. Last week (week 3), we did 16:8 fasting daily with two 12:12 days thrown in.

So that means I'd done a number of 16:8 fasts (16 hours of fasting/8 hours of eating) already going into this week, and I was really not looking forward to another week of that. I'd determined the best eating window for me to avoid hunger pangs and fuel my runs was 8 am-4 pm, breaking my fast with post-workout carbs every morning at 8 am. But that meant having dinner at 3:30 pm, which falls during my work day. Eating dinner in front of a computer is not ideal for me, and I was really dreading that going into week 4. And so, on Sunday night (mid-way through my last week on this plan), I made the decision to stop 16:8 fasting. I'm not giving up! But I'm moving into a more sustainable 14:10 model of intermittent fasting.

I hate the idea of failing at anything, so I'm not looking at this as a fast fail. Instead, I'm framing this as me tuning into my own intuition around food. If I wasn't looking forward to 16:8 fasting, why do it? Besides, 14:10 and 12:12 fasting seem more sustainable for me, meaning I can probably continue some form of that after this 30-day challenge is over.

Anyway, here are a few meals I had over the past week. Last week, when I was still attempting 16:8 fasts, I had this beautiful bowl of Overnight Oats and a big pot of green tea. On that day, I had pushed my breakfast until 10:30 am so I could enjoy beers in the evening. That pot of green tea kept me from losing my mind while my tummy growled. I'm such a breakfast eater!

Another 16-hour fast breaker! Avocado Toast with fresh fruit. Just seeing the 16 hours printed on these pics from last week makes me so grateful I decided not to do that anymore.

Another problem I had with 16:8 fasting is one that a lot of people would see as a benefit. But I found it very hard to eat enough calories in 8 hours to prevent weight loss. Many people turn to IF for weight loss, and if that's your goal, go for it! I can easily see how one could lose weight on a 16:8 plan. But as a stress fracture-prone runner, I am actively trying to keep weight on. The 14:10 method makes room for a couple snacks in my day, which helps me eat enough. 

On Friday night/Saturday morning, I planned to fast for 12 hours since I had a long run planned (but I ended up sleeping in a little later before my run). Had my usual pre-run bagel. I wanted a savory spread, and I was out of hummus so I mixed tahini, miso, and nooch together to create a really yummy bagel spread.

And finally, here's my most common fast-breaker meal — White Rice with Soy Sauce & Sesame Seeds. This is my fave post-run snack for immediate carb replenishment. I usually follow this with a protein smoothie an hour or so later. This was after another 12-hour day because I decided I wanted a late-night snack of popcorn on Sunday!

After this month is over, I hope to continue 14:10 and 12:12 fasting most days. There are plenty of great longevity and chronic disease-fighting benefits of IF, even if you're not going the full 16:8!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Vegan Cuts Quarantine Box!

Many of us are snacking way more often while we're quarantining at home. But we're also trying not to leave the house very often to buy snacks. What a conundrum, right? Vegan Cuts has the answer! They recently released special-edition quarantine pantry and toiletries boxes, and when I saw them featured in their newsletter email, I just had to have one!

There are three versions of this box — the Build Up Your Pantry Box (all snacks), the Essential Toiletries Box (all hygiene products), and the Quarantine Pantry & Toiletry Essentials Box. I decided to go all in and get the box that contained both snacks and hygiene products.

The Quarantine Pantry & Toiletry Essentials Box has 16 snacks and 10 toiletries (most are sample-sized). You don't know for sure which snacks you'll get, but they do include a list of possible items. Everything in that list sounded awesome, so I knew I'd be happy with whatever they sent! The toiletry list was pretty well set, but I did notice a couple substitutions from what was included on the website.

In my box, snacks included a bag of riced cauliflower, chickpea crisps, salt salt bean chips, a container of oats, bag of nooch, pho broth, birthday cake cookies, oatmeal cookie walnuts, marinated artichokes, butter-flavored coconut oil packs, 5 snack bars, and some vegan parmesan.

My toiletries included four bars of soap, two bottles of hemp lotion, rose body wash, coconut milk face wash, lip gloss, charcoal toothpaste, natural deodorant, and an acne patch.

I've been working my way through the toiletries and snacks. So far, I'm loving the coconut face wash the most. It's a milky white face wash that smells just like fresh coconut milk! I'm also really digging the charcoal toothpaste and Crazy Rumors lip gloss.

My favorite snack so far is the Keto Coconut Infusions butter oil. This stuff is amazing tossed with popcorn and nooch! Enjoyed this bowl last night while watching Ozark.

I also really love this pho broth! I've seen the bigger containers of Ocean's Halo Pho Broth for sale at Kroger but wasn't sure I'd like it since it has sea veggies. I tried some with my Sunday morning rice noodle ramen yesterday, and it didn't taste at all fishy like I'd thought. I will be buying more of this.

The Lupii Almond Butter Cinnamon Raisin Bar was really yummy! It only has a few ingredients with a base of dates and lupini beans. Perfect, clean pre-run snack.

The Partake Birthday Cake Cookies were tasty. They were a tad crumbly since they're gluten-free, but they were perfect dunked in a glass of cold almond milk.

I dipped the Kibo Chickpea Crisps into some homemade hummus as a mid-day snack one day. Chickpea on chickpea!! These were good!

I still have plenty of snacks left to work through! This box is a lot of fun, and it's nice to know I'm well-stocked on snacks and toiletries. I had plenty of large-sized toiletries already, and now I have these sample versions to enjoy as those run out.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Review: Proper Good Soup

In these times, a food delivery on your doorstep is just about the best thing in the world. That's one less meal you need to leave your house for. When this box of Proper Good soup was left on my porch, it made my day!

Proper Good soups are available as a one-time delivery, or you can subscribe. They have four flavors, and one of those — Squash & Carrot Soup — is vegan! It's made with butternut squash, carrot, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, veggie broth, turmeric, and other veggies and spices. And, no joke, it may be the best squash soup I've ever had! It truly tastes like something you spent hours in your kitchen making.

Each package is enough for a side serving, like I enjoyed this week with a vegan chicken sandwich. Or you can combine packs for a big bowl!

This creamy soup is bursting with flavor, and the coconut really shines along with hints of savory rosemary. There are bits of veggies, so you get some textural elements, which I really love! I rarely make squash soup at home because I'm not too crazy about purely creamy soups (or purely creamy anything!). I want some chunks, and this has it! The best part? Every single one of the ingredients is a real food. No preservatives or added junk.

When I was enjoying the above bowl, I thought, "This would make an excellent sauce!" So tonight, I made a GGB (grain, green, bean) Bowl with brown rice, kale, white beans, avocado, and tomato, topped with this squash & carrot soup. WOW!! Next level sauce, y'all. I think it'd also make a great sauce for a vegan mac & cheese!

Proper Good is also Earth-friendly! All of the cardboard packaging is, of course, recyclable, but many places will not accept the plastic pouch for their recycling programs. So Proper Good includes a pre-paid return envelope with each order so you can mail the empty pouches back for them to recycle! How great is that?!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Donuts! Pizza! Gnocchi!

My co-worker Lily runs Darling Donuts Memphis, and she's taken a bit of a break from slinging donuts during the pandemic. But this week, she decided to do "ding-dong donuts" where she just drives around dropping donut surprises on doorsteps! And yesterday, I got a ding-dong surprise! Best package ever.

I'd already started my 16-hour fast for the day (it was around 4 pm), but I broke fast and had two donuts (one glazed, one cinnamon sugar) because my priorities are in order. :-) I considered sharing the rest with friends but quickly thought better of that plan and froze the rest to enjoy later. I've missed Lily's vegan donuts so much, and who knows when life will return to normal. I need to be well-stocked!

I also had pizza yesterday, so I'd say it was a good day. I made the Tuscan White Bean Pizza from Robin Robertson's Vegan on the Cheap. This recipe was reprinted with permission on the No Meat Athlete Intermittent Fasting page, and I had everything to make it. So I did! Mashed, seasoned white beans stand in for cheese here, and I topped this with some farmer's market tomatoes, fresh basil from my herb garden, and kalamatas.

On my last big grocery trip to Trader Joe's, I picked up some Kale Gnocchi. And I had some leftover silken tofu in the fridge, so one day last week, I whipped up the tofu alfredo recipe from the Happy Herbivore Cookbook and served with the gnocchi. Wow!! This stuff is amazing, and I will be picking up more bags of gnocchi on my next TJ's run.

I've been making simple meals with canned foods quite often, like these Refried Bean Tacos. I used a can of TJ's refried beans, plus some Daiya (I keep mine in the freezer), black olives, and fresh tomato, sprouts, and lettuce from the farmer's market.

Here's a quick stir-fry I made with marinated tofu, brown rice, and sauteed cabbage and asparagus. I stocked up on cabbage because it lasts forever. I'd gotten the asparagus on sale a few weeks ago and immediately chopped it up and froze it for later.

Everybody is baking bread these days, so I jumped on that bandwagon with some fresh Banana Bread! I usually freeze ripe bananas for smoothies, but I let a couple sit out and get super-ripe for bread. I googled until I found this recipe on Nora Cooks that I had all the ingredients for. It was really good! I'd highly recommend this recipe!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Intermittent Fasting Challenge, Week 3

For the past few weeks, I've been trying intermittent fasting on the No Meat Athlete 30-day IF Challenge. In the first week, I did 12:12 (12 hours of fasting/12 hours of eating), and that was a breeze. Too easy. Last week, I did 14:10 (14 hours of fasting/10 hours of eating), and that was still pretty easy. Drinking booze was a challenge, but other than that, I was cool.

This week, I'm doing 16:8 (with two 12:12 flex days), and y'all, this is haaaaaard. Mad respect for anyone who does 16:8 intermittent fasting long-term! On the first day, I attempted to have my eating window run from 11 am-7 pm, and I very quickly realized that would NOT work for me. I'm a big breakfast eater, and I get my runs in early so I like to have immediate post-workout carbs. On that day, I didn't have a run scheduled though. So I did light yoga and made myself wait until 11 am for breakfast. I thought I was going starve to death! I couldn't concentrate on my work. All I could think about was FOOD. At 11 am, I had some Avocado Toast and fruit, and I've never been more excited to eat.

So no go on the 11 am-7 pm routine. The next day, I decided to start eating at 8 am and stop at 4 pm. Much better!! I had my usual post-run White Rice Bowl (this time, it was topped with Herdez guacamole salsa — my new obsession). This is always followed by a protein smoothie with fruit, flax, and walnuts.

The problem with eating from 8 am-4 pm is having dinner in the 3 o'clock hour. Since I'm working from home, this is much better than if I was, say, at the office. But it still sucks to work through dinner. Some days, I'm in Webex meetings during that hour, so I'm scarfing down food while in a meeting. My co-workers are used to seeing me eat, so it's fine. Just not terribly enjoyable. I like to enjoy my meals. 

I'm also having to cram three meals (plus snacks!) into 8 hours because I don't want to lose weight on IF. If you're looking to lose weight, I can see how this 16:8 would be beneficial, but if you're trying to keep your calories up, it means eating non-stop in your eating window. 

This 8 am-4 pm eating window does almost completely alleviate the hunger issue. I do get a slight twinge of hunger before bed at 9 pm, but it's not bad and goes away while I sleep. I wake up feeling good, and I've been enjoying my fasted runs in the morning.

This weekend, I used my two 12:12 days for Friday and Saturday. That made virtual cocktail hours go more smoothly (because I could drink), and it meant I was able to properly fuel for my long run. Here's my Saturday morning pre-run Blueberry Bagel with Almond and Peanut Butters.

My other favorite breakfast (on non-running days) has been Overnight Oats (oats, chia, maple, and almond milk) topped with berries and peanut butter.

I have another week of 16:8 ahead (through the end of April) with one more optional 12:12 day. But at this point, I can't see myself doing this for long-term. I may consider doing 14:10 days fairly often though, and I see no reason not to do 12:12 all the time!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Vegan Fried Chicken! Biscoff Cake! French Toast!

Since I'm not eating out as often these days (typically just once a week at Imagine Vegan Cafe), I like to splurge hard when I do get takeout! No healthy-ish takeout meals for me! I want pure junk food. I indulged this Saturday night with Imagine Vegan Cafe's Fried Chick'n Drumsticks meal with sides of vegan mac and seasoned greens ("honey" mustard for dipping). Y'all, these crispy, chicken-y drummies are my fave, but I rarely order them because fried food makes me feel yucky. But sometimes, it's worth it. This was one of those times.

When eating something this decadent, I wouldn't usually also spring for dessert. But when I saw they'd just put out a fresh Biscoff Cake, well, it had to be eaten. This is my very favorite dessert at Imagine! There's a thin layer of vanilla cake swirled with Biscoff spread, topped with creamy vegan whip and drizzled with more Biscoff. Y'ALL. Y'ALL. I can't even.

LuLu's is back at the CY Farmer's Market! They're only doing pre-order pick-up, so you order and pay on their website and pick up in-person. This minimizes contact, and they're doing a pay-what-you-can deal, so people who have lost their income can pick up goods for free if they need to. Those who can pay more are doing so to off-set that cost. Very cool! I picked up some sandwich loaf and country loaf from them on Saturday, and I made this French Toast the next day using slices of sandwich loaf. Topped with homemade berry syrup (made with frozen berries and maple) and hemp hearts.

It was nice to be back at the farmer's market! It was fairly busy, but everyone was wearing masks so I felt super-safe. I picked up a bunch of fresh tomatoes, some sprouts, and some butter lettuce as well. All of those veggies went into a big ole salad on Sunday afternoon. I also added some leftover, chopped vegan fried chicken from Imagine. Topped with homemade lemon-tahini dressing and lots of toasted sesame seeds. YUM!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Lentils! Soy Curls! Tostadas!

JL Fields of JL Goes Vegan offered a free, virtual Instant Pot class a couple weekends ago, and I've been needing some tips for the Instant Pot I got for Christmas. I use it almost daily for rice, but I know it can do so much more. JL made two recipes in the class, and I just happened to have everything to make both in my pantry and fridge! So I made her Potato, Lentil, and Apple Soup first. This hearty stew is savory and sweet (from the apple), and comes together so quickly. I believe this recipe is in her Vegan Pressure Cooking cookbook, which I really need to buy!

A couple days later, I went to make her Soy Curl Mac & Cheese but realized my last bag of Butler's Soy Curls had expired. I typically eat things way beyond their expiration date, but they smelled (and tasted) rancid! Yuck. So I quickly ordered a box of six fresh packs from Butler Foods, and they arrived in a couple days. This tasty nooch-based vegan mac & cheese is loaded with protein from the Soy Curls!

The next day, I had my leftovers with a bunch of steamed kale. It just needed something green!

Over the weekend, Paul, who NEVER cooks, decided to play chef and whip up a vegan Cabbage Stew with mushrooms, potatoes, and white beans. It's not the prettiest dish, but it's really yummy. And he made a ton, so I'll be eating leftovers all week!

I loaded up on canned beans, tortillas, and all kinds of Mexican food ingredients on my last big grocery trip. A couple nights ago, I used some corn tortillas and refried beans and salsa to create some easy Skillet Bean Tostadas, topped with lettuce, tomato, and fresh avocado (I always grab a few when I make a quick produce run!). On the side, I had some corn chips with cashew queso. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

I Tried Banana Peel Bacon!

My dad is quite the cook, and he loves sending me recipes — often strange vegan recipes that he finds online! This weekend, he texted me a link to a recipe for Banana Peel Bacon on It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken. IDTLC is one of the best vegan recipe blogs out there, so I knew this was worth trying, as weird as it sounds. And I just happened to have some very ripe bananas on my counter!

You can find the recipe here. But basically, you shave the banana bits off the peels and marinate it in a bacon-y marinade. Then you fry it in a skillet like bacon!

You need to let it fry until it's super-crispy. One of my strips didn't get as crisp, and it tasted much more like banana than bacon. But if you almost burn it, it works and loses some of that banana flavor! It's not the best vegetable (or, I guess, fruit?) bacon I've had. I much prefer mushroom bacon and eggplant bacon, but in a pinch, this works! 

I used my bacon and some of my homemade vegan pimento cheese (from Cookin' Crunk) to make a Grilled Pimento Cheese and Bacon Sandwich.

Would I make this bacon again? Probably not! But it was fun to try!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Intermittent Fasting Challenge: Week 2

For the month of April, I'm doing the 30-day No Meat Athlete Intermittent Fasting Challenge. Mostly for fun! There's no time like a pandemic for a fun food challenge. I'm also curious to see how I feel doing 16:8 intermittent fasting, which is supposed to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, protecting against certain chronic diseases. It can also help with digestion and gut health.

The 30-day challenge, available to members of the NMA Academy (No Meat Athlete's membership group) has several options, and I'm doing the "gradual build" option. I started last week with 12:12 fasting (12 hours of eating/12 hours of fasting), and this week, I've graduated to 14:10. The plan did allow for one optional 12:12 day this week for those who have long runs, so I used that option on Saturday when Paul and I ran 10 miles. On days that I run long, I need to eat more, so having more hours to do that is helpful.

So far this week, 14:10 has gone pretty smoothly! I'm using the Zero app to track each day's fast, and they provide a filter to use on your breakfast pic. On Sunday, I broke my fast (after 12 hours, thanks to Saturday's 12:12 plan) with my favorite lazy Sunday breakfast — Rice Noodle Ramen with Veggies & Tofu.

Yesterday, I went on a three-mile run when I first woke up. I'm learning to run in a fasted state. Before, I always had a Larabar first. And then immediately after, I broke my fast with a banana for post-run carbs. About an hour later, I had my breakfast — a Mango Pineapple Green Protein Smoothie with banana, walnuts, flax, and spinach.

This morning, I pushed my fast to 15 hours! That's because I planned to run after work, and I knew I'd need to push my dinner back to 6 pm instead my usual 5 pm to make the 10-hour eating window. I was pretty famished by the time I got to eat this bowl of Overnight Oats with PB, Berries, and Banana at 9 am!

Tomorrow, I start the first of two weeks of 16:8! Eeeek! For this first week of 16:8, I get two optional 12:12 days, which I'll save for the weekend — one for my Saturday long run and the other probably on Friday (so I can drink later in the evening). The hardest part of 14:10 for me this week was over the weekend, when I wanted a glass of wine after 6 pm but couldn't have it! 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Tacos! Burgers! Tofu Eggs!

I made Black Bean & Veggie Tacos last week using canned beans, frozen bell peppers, frozen corn, and some fresh veggies (like kale and onions) that need using. I also made some Cashew Queso from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook, and wow, that stuff is good! Best cheese dip I've ever made!

I enjoyed my weekly takeout order from Imagine Vegan Cafe on Saturday night after spending the day running and gardening (yay outside!!). I got a Beyond Burger with Vegan Cheese & Sweet Potato Fries. The cheese got a little melty in the takeout box, but hey, it's takeout!

Here's a healthy, super-easy pantry/freezer meal I made last week. Baked Sweet Potato with Chickpeas, Spinach, and Guac. I used canned chickpeas, frozen spinach, and Herdez guacamole salsa from a jar (a great stand-in for fresh guac when you can't get avocados!).

For my Easter Sunday supper, I made my Tofu Deviled Eggy Bites and Pimento Cheese from Cookin' Crunk! The "eggs" have black salt for a super eggy flavor. I stocked up on tofu for the pandemic like most people did with toilet paper! The pimento cheese is really just a fancy hummus with pimento peppers and a little Vegenaise for extra creaminess. Great on a sandwich. I had some Beanfield's Korean BBQ Cracklins on the side. It rained all day here on Sunday, so my hopes for an Easter picnic with Paul turned into chillin' on the couch and watching Ozark.