Thursday, May 28, 2020

Recipe: Polenta Cakes with Chickpeas, Swiss Chard, Roasted Radish, and Lemon-Tahini Sauce

This is my final recipe post in the Bring It Food Hub recipe series! Last Friday, Bring It Food Hub — a Memphis CSA hub that sources produce from local farmers — gave me a CSA share to play with. I've been sharing recipes over the last few days, all using local foods. And tonight, I give you the finale — Polenta Cakes with Chickpeas, Swiss Chard, Roasted Radish, and Lemon-Tahini Sauce!

This looks impressive, but it's super easy to throw together, especially if you make the polenta and sauce the night before. Polenta cakes are just a fancy way of saying "fried polenta slices." You can actually buy pre-made polenta in a tube, but it's so easy to make from scratch with dry grain. For this, I used organic Braggadocio Polenta from the McKaskle Family Farm in Braggadocio, Missouri (about an hour and a half drive from Memphis). This polenta, as well as the chard and radishes in this recipe, was included in my Bring It CSA share!

If you are making the polenta cakes from scratch, you'll need to make the polenta several hours ahead of time. Overnight isn't necessary, but you'll need at least 3 hours to allow the polenta to completely cool and firm up into a sliceable cake.

For the greens, I used local Swiss chard, but any greens would work here — kale, collards, turnip greens, whatever. I actually even threw in some radish greens from the CSA for this, but I'm not including in the recipe because they're not necessary to make this. But if you're using radishes with tops for this recipe, why not throw in the greens? If you're doing that, just add them when you add the chard.

Okay, without further ado, here's the recipe!

Polenta Cakes with Chickpeas, Swiss Chard, Roasted Radish, and Lemon-Tahini Sauce
Yields 2 servings

For the polenta cakes:
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry polenta
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt (depending on how salty your broth is)
Black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

For the radishes:
1 bunch radishes
2 tsp. olive oil

For the saute:
1/2 onion, diced
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

For the sauce:
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of half lemon
1/4 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. cumin

To make the polenta, bring the broth to a boil, stir in the polenta, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and whisk until incorporated. Lower heat and cook for 30-40 minutes. Stir in the nutritional yeast and remove from heat. Transfer to a Tupperware bowl that's the same shape as how you'd like your cakes to look. I prefer a rectangle-sized bowl for this (a little smaller than a loaf pan). Place in the fridge for at least 3 hours and allow to cool completely. When it's cool, it will have firmed up into a sliceable brick.

To make the radishes, preheat the oven to 400. Quarter the large radishes and halve the smaller ones. Toss with oil and spread onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and easily pierced with a fork.

To make the saute, add the onion to a non-stick skillet and saute for 2-3 minutes or until onion begins to brown. No need to add oil or liquid at this point! Once the onion is browned a bit, add greens and a splash of water (just enough to prevent sticking). Saute for another 5-7 minutes or until greens wilt. Add the chickpeas, soy sauce, and garlic powder, and heat for another 5 minutes or so until everything is heated through. Stir in the vinegar and remove from heat.

To make the sauce, whisk all sauce ingredients together. This also makes a great salad dressing if you have leftovers!

Now it's time to fry your polenta (you can also do this as your veggies are cooking). Heat a large non-stick skillet (this is important!!) over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Slice your polenta into thick slices and carefully place in the pan. Allow to brown on one side for 5-7 minutes, and then very carefully flip the slices and brown on the other side. Although the polenta is firm, it will fall apart easily, so be careful. And if you break a cake, just put it back together on your plate and cover with veggies. No one will know!

To plate, put 3-4 polenta cakes on your plate. Top with half of the veggies and add half of the radishes on top. Drizzle with lemon-tahini sauce. EAT!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Recipe: Vegan White Bean & Veggie Quesadillas!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Bring It Food Hub — a Memphis-based CSA hub that sources produce and goods from regional farmers — gave me a CSA share last week so I could create a few fun recipes using local foods!

I've been looking for new lunch ideas for those days when there aren't enough leftovers from the night before. And last Thursday, I got inspiration from a No Meat Athlete podcast on quick vegan lunches. They listed off a bunch of easy ideas that I'd never thought of as lunches (like avocado toast! FOR LUNCH! WHAT?!), and there was a mention of vegan quesadillas. Of course, I've made quesadillas before, but it's been awhile, and I'd kind of forgotten about them. So on Monday, I whipped up a White Bean & Veggie Quesadilla for lunch.

In the past, my quesadillas were usually just beans or plant meats with vegan cheese, but why not up the health factor and pack it with veggies? I used some spinach from the CSA, as well as a jar of local salsa verde from Winchester Farm (also in the CSA). I love that Bring It includes some dry goods and preserves in their bags. What fun surprises!

I'm sharing my quick recipe, but these quesadillas are very versatile, so you could swap out any of the veggies. Or you could use regular salsa instead of salsa verde. Or you could leave out the vegan cheese if you'd rather. It's your quesadilla! Own it!

Vegan White Bean & Veggie Quesadillas
Yields one serving

1/2 cup red bell pepper
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup baby spinach
2 tsp. taco seasoning
1/2 cup white beans (Great Northern or cannellini)
1 whole wheat burrito-sized tortilla
1/4 cup vegan cheese
2 Tbsp. salsa verde
Lettuce, tomato, avocado, salsa for serving

Place the red bell pepper, corn, and garlic in a non-stick skillet, and saute on medium heat for about 2 minutes. No oil needed! After a couple minutes, add a couple splashes of water to prevent the veggies from sticking and cook another 5 minutes or so, or until the veggies are tender. Add 1 tsp. of the taco seasoning, and stir to combine. Stir in the spinach until wilted. Remove from heat.

While the veggies are cooking, heat the white beans in a small saucepan. Mash with a fork and add the remaining tsp. of taco seasoning. Cook until heated through. You can also cook these in the microwave if you have no shame like me. :-)

Heat a large skillet (you can use the same one from your veggies; just wipe it out), and spray with a little non-stick cooking spray. Place your tortilla in the skillet and spread one half with white beans. Top with veggies, and then top with cheese and salsa. Fold the other half of the tortilla on top. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the bottom is lightly browned. Flip and cook on the other side until lightly browned. 

Serve with lettuce, tomato, avocado, and salsa. I added some oil-free, air-fried corn chips on the side!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Recipes: Grilled Asparagus + Fried Green Tomatoes

On Friday, Bring It Food Hub — a Memphis CSA hub that sources produce and goods from regional farmers — gave me a free bag of food to create new some recipes to share! In these pandemic times, nothing makes me happier than a bag of fresh produce! They have a pick-up location at Crosstown Concourse, where I work, so I walked over and picked up my bag on Friday afternoon (since I'm working from home for now). By the way, Bring It is now taking subscribers for their Summer 2020 season!

Look at this local food! There was kale, chard, radishes, asparagus, tomatoes (including some green ones!), spinach, polenta, salsa verde, and even dog treats from Beale Street Bluescuits (made with spent beer grain from my friend Kelvin's new brewery, Beale Street Brewing Co.).

Over the next few days, I'll be sharing recipes using all this delicious produce! But tonight, I've got a Grilled Asparagus recipe and a Fried Green Tomato Recipe for ya! On Saturday, Paul and I grilled out for Memorial Day Weekend, and we threw the asparagus on the grill. We also prepared fried green tomatoes inside on the stove to go with our outdoor meal.

When grilling asparagus, you can certainly place the spears directly onto the grill, but if your grill isn't lined with foil, you run the risk of losing spears in the grill grates. And if you do line your grill with foil (as we do), you still risk burning your asparagus with that direct heat. I prefer making a foil pack so your asparagus can take its time cooking along with your veggie burgers or Beyond Brats or whatever else you're cooking. Here's some spears getting ready for the grill!

Here's the recipe!

Grilled Lemon-Garlic Asparagus
Yields 2-4 servings

1 bunch asparagus
1 Tbsp. vegan margarine
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toss the asparagus with softened margarine, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and salt/pepper and place in a large square of aluminum foil. Wrap tightly, and then double-wrap that bundle with another square of foil, making sure all edges are sealed. 

Place on the grill for 15 minutes or until spears are crisp-tender. 


I wish there was a way to make fried green tomatoes on the grill! But then they wouldn't be fried. So I'd recommend you stick to making your fried green tomatoes indoors this summer. 

Now you can air-fry these or bake them, and they'll be okay. I'm normally a low-oil/no-oil cook these days, but there's one food that I do not hesitate to fry, and that's a green tomato. A fresh, tangy, breaded, crispy green tomato is a Southern delicacy that I only enjoy a couple times each summer, so I feel a-okay about consuming some oil when I eat these.

The following Fried Green Tomato recipe is from my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South (available on Amazon or wherever fun books are sold!).

Fried Green Tomatoes
Yields 4 helpins

2 large green tomatoes
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup unsweetened plant milk
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

Cut the tomatoes into thick slices and sprinkle with salt.

Put the cornstarch in one bowl, the plant milk in a second bowl, and in a third bowl, combine the cornmeal, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and ground pepper. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat. The oil should generously coat the skillet. If it doesn't, add more! Heat until a pinch of flour sizzles when dropped into the hot oil. When that happens, you're ready to fry!

Take one slice of tomato and dip it into the cornstarch, pressing into both sides. Next, dip the slice into the plant milk, wetting both sides. And finally, dip into the breadcrumb bowl, pressing down on both sides until the crumbs stick. Place the slice into the hot oil, and repeat with the remaining slices. You may need to cook these in batches, as they should not overlap in the skillet.

Fry on one side for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the slices, and fry until golden on the other side. When the slices are done, remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the oil. Season with more salt if needed. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Vegan Grillin' for Memorial Day!

Paul and I got a head start on Memorial Day grilling on Saturday since he had to work in Nashville today. We have a rusty, old charcoal grill that we drag out a couple times a year, cover liberally in foil, and load up with as much food as we can. I love eating grilled leftovers for days! That's the taste of summer.

I already had some Field Roast burgers in the fridge, but when we got to the grocery store to stock up, Paul picked up a packet of meat brats for himself. When he tossed them into the cart, I said, "What if we got Beyond Brats instead?" Of course, the Beyond Brats were more expensive, but he agreed. Yay! Vegan win!

Bring It Food Hub — a local CSA hub — gave me a giant bag of local produce last Friday so I could cook with a few things and share recipes on the blog. We decided to use the asparagus and green tomatoes from that CSA share, plus we bought some corn on the cob and stuff for potato salad.

Voila! Look at all that food! Field Roast Burgers, Grilled Corn, Grilled Garlic-Lemon Asparagus, Smoky Potato Salad, Grilled Foil Pack Mushrooms, and Corn on the Cob. We grilled the brats too, but we saved those for Sunday's supper.

I put some Miyoko Cheddar Shreds on my burger, no cheese at all for Paul. So he had a totally vegan meal!

The Smoky Potato Salad is from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. It's made with olive oil and vinegar rather than mayo, and it's flecked with slivered almonds for a nice crunch. There's a little smoked paprika and liquid smoke for a bacony flavor.

I'll be sharing my recipes for the grilled asparagus and fried green tomatoes in tomorrow's post!

The next night, on Sunday, we had our grilled brats, plus leftover asparagus and corn from the grill. I made some more fried green tomatoes, and I made some mashed potatoes with gravy (using the leftover grilled mushrooms). Both of these meals mean Paul had another totally meat-free weekend! He did have some cheese and non-vegan chips, so it wasn't a vegan weekend. But close!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Engine 2 Meals!

My partner Paul recently discovered he has high blood pressure, and that was enough to scare him straight. At least for now! I told him he could lower his blood pressure and improve his overall health with a plant-based diet. Paul eats vegan food sometimes, but he's not vegan most of the time. I haven't convinced him to go fully vegan (YET!), but last weekend, I did get him to commit to eating super healthy meals from the Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue Diet.

The Seven Day Rescue is Engine 2's super-strict, oil-free, low-salt, whole foods-based meal plan. I've done the plan myself years ago as a reset, and it's hardcore. I had him pick out a couple recipes for the weekend. He chose (no surprise!) the Mighty Green Pasta Bowl, which has whole wheat spaghetti, homemade oil-free red sauce, and lots of greens. Paul doesn't typically eat kale or spinach, but both were mixed into the pasta. And he ate them! We also sauteed some mushrooms without oil, and I added nooch to mine. I made cashew parsley ranch for our salads.

The fact that Paul ate a salad was nothing short of a miracle. He does eat "salad" in real life, but it consists of iceberg lettuce with a lot of shredded cheese and ham, and it's always drowning in dairy ranch. But he ate his veggie salad with cashew ranch, and I was proud.

The next day, he chose the Triple Pepper Chipotle Chili, which we had with brown rice and avocado. The chili has kidney and black beans, lots of bell pepper, chipotle pepper, mushrooms, and even zucchini! It's sweetened with a little BBQ sauce, which is different, but we liked it!

He'd also picked out the Hummus & Avocado Flats for a Sunday lunch, but we ended up snacking on oil-popped popcorn (not Engine 2 approved) for lunch (because we were binge-watching You on Netflix). So the next day, I had the flats (open-faced sandwiches) for lunch on my own. These have hummus, avocado, cucumber, tomato, balsamic, and romaine on sprouted grain bread. I made some corn chips in the air fryer with corn tortillas and enjoyed with some homemade salsa (from my dad!). 

And finally, here's last night's leftovers. I had some red sauce left from our spaghetti night, so I had more pasta. But I added broccoli (instead of kale) and topped with chickpeas and nooch!

At the end of the weekend, Paul's blood pressure was back to a normal rate! All it took was cutting down on salt (he consumes WAY too much) and eating a healthy vegan diet. Since then, he's had fish a few times, but he's stuck to a mostly vegetarian diet so far. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Chips & Dip! Stir-fry! Yogurt Parfait!

After a two-week break from takeout while self-isolating, I was sooooo ready to eat at Imagine Vegan Cafe again! I've been trying to eat there weekly during the pandemic to show my support for Memphis' only full-service vegan restaurant. I thought I'd get takeout from there over the weekend, but Paul is on a health kick (yay!) so we cooked at home. But he went back to Nashville for work on Sunday night, so Monday was junk food party time! After work, I called Imagine for a takeout order of Spinach Artichoke Dip & Chips!

Imagine has the BEST spinach dip, and I usually just snack on this as an appetizer (shared with others). But in quarantine times, there is no sharing. So I ate the whole thing as my dinner.

Last night, I made a yummy Mandarin Orange Chick'n Stir-fry with Trader Joe's frozen chicken-less mandarin orange morsels, fresh cabbage (that had been in my fridge for a month, maybe more!), zucchini, and mushrooms. Served over brown rice. This was my first time trying the TJ's morsels, and they're really good. Very similar to the Gardein mandarin chicken.

I'm still doing 14:10 intermittent fasting most days, which has resulted in a serious sparkling water addiction. I was already a big fan of fizzy water, but now that I don't eat anything after 6 pm, I depend on my nightly La Croix to keep me entertained. I just like to consume things all the time! I found this new Limoncello La Croix this week, and WOW!!!!! It has a certain razzle dazzle that I cannot explain, but it's very similar to the Key Lime flavor (my fave before I discovered limoncello). I have some homemade limoncello liqueur that I made awhile back, and I'm gonna try spiking my water for a refreshing cocktail! Homemade White Claw!

Speaking of snacks (is water a snack?), I really enjoyed this blueberry IQ protein bar! This came in a Vegan Cuts box, and I had it after a morning virtual workout class. My gym has been killin' it during the pandemic with super-hard virtual classes, and I'm taking three classes a week. I like to have a protein-y snack afterward, and this was nice. It's made with whole foods and was only lightly sweetened.

Finally, here's my breakfast from this morning! My mom gave me a leftover container of Vanilla Silk Almond Yogurt that she bought for our lemon pie the other day (but didn't use). I enjoyed the yogurt with some Love Crunch chocolate berry granola, fresh strawberries, ground flax, and walnuts. I love the Love Crunch granola because it has chunks of dark chocolate mixed in. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Now Open: LuLu's!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've been raving about LuLu's — Memphis' all-vegan bakery business — for a long time. But up until recently, their amazing breads, pastries, cookies, and other goodies were only available at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market (or at the occasional pop-up brunch). But now LuLu's has their very own space inside Puck Food Hall in downtown Memphis!

They've been working toward this for awhile, and wouldn't you know it? Now they're opening in the middle of a global pandemic! But since Puck Food Hall is well-suited for grab-and-go, they're making it work. Paul and I stopped by on Saturday morning for the first time and were pleased to see our friends Don, Stephanie, and Tiffany behind the counter wearing masks.

For now, they're only open for breakfast Thursday through Saturday, and we were a little late, so I missed the Brekky Sandwich (next time!). But I did score a Strawberry Hand Pie. These tiny pies are made with crispy crust and locally sourced fruit. Strawberries are in-season here!

They had Pita Chips, so I grabbed a bag to enjoy with my daily hummus snack. I'm going through hummus like mad these days. These are super crisp with a nice chunky salt and some kind of seasoning (maybe za'atar?).

And I got a Black-eyed Pea Sausage Biscuit. They make everything from scratch, and their sausages are insane. I could eat, like, five of these things!

I practiced restraint though and saved my biscuit for Sunday morning's breakfast. I added a folded Just Egg and some Miyoko's cheddar shreds for good measure. This was a breakfast that I never wanted to end. Can I just eat breakfast sandwiches every second of my life forever?

LuLu's is open in Puck Food Hall (409 South Main) Thursdays through Saturdays from 8 am to noon. They hope to expand to lunch service soon. Masks are required inside Puck Food Hall for now, so please cover your face! LuLu's also still taking pick-up orders for the Cooper-Young market. Follow them on Insta for details!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Belated Parents' Birthdays/Mother's Day!

Before this past weekend, I hadn't seen my parents since February — before the pandemic began in the U.S. That means I missed both of their birthdays (April 3 for my dad; May 4 for my mom) and Mother's Day. Because they're in that high-risk age group, I didn't want to risk spreading any potential virus to them. I haven't been sick that I know of! But you never know with COVID-19!

So I self-isolated for two weeks to be sure it was safe to go visit them. I'm working from home, so that was not too hard for me. But that meant my partner Paul, who is still working with the public daily, had to stay in Nashville (where he works) for two weeks. But last Friday, my self-isolation ended, and I made the trip to Arkansas to see my folks!

My parents are doing keto right now, so they're all about the low-carb life. I'm typically on a high-carb diet, but we met in the middle with Vegan Beef Tacos (made with Beyond Meat) and a Mexican Salad, plus chips, salsa, and guac. My dad made the guac and salsa from scratch, and both were amazing.

For dessert, my mom made a Vegan Keto Lemon Pie! This has a pecan crust and is filled with lemon-y, whipped topping made with coconut whip and vegan cream cheese. She crumbed a lemon Larabar on top for some texture. It was REALLY good. Who knew you could do vegan and keto at the same time?

I brought their birthday and Mother's Day gifts with me. Mama asked for a bunch of Pioneer Woman stuff for her kitchen.

And Daddy wanted new sunglasses and work gloves. I also added a bottle of one of his favorite whiskeys, Weller.

We had a nice visit! I can't wait til this is all over, and we can just visit whenever we want!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit!

Since I'm self-isolating for 14 days (okay, it's really 13!! The best I could do!) to ensure I'm virus-free before visiting my parents, I've been forced to cook at home every day! I was already an avid fan of cooking at home most nights, but now I'm skipping the two or three takeout meals I usually enjoy in a week.

And that means I'm eating healthier foods! Namely beans. Lots of beans! When stocking up at the beginning of the pandemic, I got lots of dried beans because food scarcity was a real threat back then. But I didn't use any right away because I'd also purchased canned beans, and they're just easier. But this week, I made Borracho Cranberry Beans in the Instant Pot using dried cranberry beans and this recipe.

I subbed veggie broth for the chicken broth in the recipe, but it was otherwise vegan. Borracho beans are also known as "drunken beans" because you add beer to the broth as they cook. These also had ghost pepper (subbed for the jalapenos), salsa, onion, cilantro (from my herb garden), and spices. Very tasty served alongside some LuLu's country loaf with Miyoko mozz.

I had some leftover borracho beans over brown rice, topped with spinach, sauteed zucchini, and pan-fried tofu in a Grain/Green/Bean Bowl last night. Topped with lemon-tahini sauce and sriracha. Simple bowl meals with sauce are my favorite thing to eat!

I've been listening to Rip Esselstyn's Plant-Strong podcast a lot, and he had a great episode recently where he interviews his mom Ann and his sister Jane about their favorite plant-based meals. Ann talked about her Black Beans & Rice, served with kale and topped with fresh mango and salsa. That sounded so good! And I had everything on-hand to make it (and a mango that was getting a little too ripe). Oil-free, full of flavor!

Not everything I've been eating has been super-healthy! I stocked up on Soy Curls at the start of the pandemic, and there were a few recipes included with the shipment. I had everything to make Soy Curl Chicken Salad (celery, onion, vegan mayo), and I had some wraps leftover from burrito night. I added a few grapes and had a yummy Soy Chicken Salad Wrap! Hummus and veggies on the side (so still pretty healthy!).

And then here's a totally not-healthy (but totally delicious) meal! Brekky Sandwich! With Beyond Sausage, Just Egg folded eggs, and Miyoko's cheddar shreds).

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Review: Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds

A few months ago, I discovered Pig Out brand's mushroom bacon at Sprouts. It was in the chip aisle, and while the dried, smoky mushroom snack could definitely be eaten as a chip, I enjoyed it sprinkled on salads and BLTs. I've purchased several bags of that bacon since! And then at the start of quarantine, my friend Nicole sent me a link for a special offer of four free sample bags of Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds! All you had to do was pay $5 shipping. Sign me up! I already knew they'd be great after my experience with the mushroom bacon.

The snack-sized bags arrived on my porch a few days later, and I dug right in. They come in four flavors  — Original, Texas BBQ, Hella Hot, and Nacho Cheese.

These pigless rinds are made with rice, pea protein, pea grits, oil, and seasonings. They're basically a puffed rice snack seasoned like pork rinds. They're baked, not fried, and while they're not really a healthy snack, they're certainly better for you than pork rinds made from pigs!

I stopped eating meat (and thus, pork rinds) in 1994 at age 14, but before that, I was a huge pork rind fan (that's when I was too young to understand what a pork rind was!!). BBQ were always the best, so I opened the Texas BBQ flavor first.

One bite was I was in love! These are so good, and they really do have the taste and texture of a traditional pork rind. But they're not made out of the skin of pigs, which is cruel and disgusting. There really is a vegan version of everything now!!

I haven't opened the Original or Hella Hot yet, but I really enjoyed the Nacho Cheese flavor too. I don't think I've seen a nacho pork rind, but why not? They get their cheesy flavor from yeast extract, tomato powder, and spices. Yum!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Pizza! Cupcakes!

Last time I made pizza from scratch, the crust recipe made enough dough for two crusts, so I froze half for later. On Friday, I realized I had some leftover Be-Hive seitan pepperoni and Miyoko mozz from Paul's birthday picnic a couple weekends ago. In my well-stocked pantry, I found a can of black olives and a can of tomato sauce. So pizza night, it was!

I ate pizza pretty much all weekend! When I have something indulgent like pizza, I try to balance the rest of my day with whole foods, like salads, smoothies, or grain/green/bean bowls. And I was doing so well until my friend Susan dropped off surprise Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache on my doorstep! 

These were really yummy, especially enjoyed with a cold glass of almond milk. I've been enjoying one a day since Sunday. 

I picked up some whole wheat English muffins on my last grocery trip. Some are being used for breakfast sandwiches, but I've been eating the others with almond butter and marmalade. Such a simple and lovely breakfast.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Meet Baby Thomas!

If you've been following this blog (or my Instagram) for awhile, you know I've kinda got a bit of a reputation as a CRAZY SQUIRREL LADY! It all started in 2014 when our pit bull Maynard found a baby squirrel who had fallen from the nest in our backyard. We tried to find a local licensed rehabber with no luck, but someone recommended a local "squirrel guy" they knew. I reached out, only to find that he'd moved away from Memphis. He couldn't take the squirrel, but he did pass along instructions for raising the baby myself.

And so we did! Luckily, I've always had cool jobs where no one minded me bringing a baby squirrel to the office because they need to be fed every few hours. We released that first baby, Herman, when he was about 12 weeks old, and he came to visit every morning for a year (same time, 8 am)! Once you get a reputation as a squirrel lady, you're in for life. Every time someone finds a baby squirrel and doesn't know what to do, they'll message you, call you, text you. We've since raised Mable, Gertrude, Kevin, and Kathy! And now Baby Thomas is our sixth squirrel.

I turn a lot of squirrels down every year because I just can't always invest the 12 weeks it takes to raise one. When I can't take in a squirrel, I'll share instructions with others on how to raise them. We're building an army of squirrel caretakers here! But when my co-worker Tom texted me that he found an orphaned baby in his yard about two weeks ago, I couldn't say no.

I'm working from home and not traveling any further than my parents' house for the foreseeable future, so why not? I named the squirrel Sir Thomas Belvedere Edwards II after my co-worker.

Thomas' eyes were open when he came to me, and his little baby teeth were just coming in, so I estimated he was about 5-6 weeks old. Too young to eat solid food, so I quickly got some Esbilac puppy formula for him. They eat every four hours at that age.

When you first introduce solids, you start with very soft foods, like avocado and grapes. Thomas really loves his formula and hasn't quite taken to fruit yet. But he did nibble on some avocado on Cinco de Mayo. Such a festive baby!

He was still a very sleepy baby when he arrived at my house (Tom drove him over on his scooter!!). But in the past week and a half, Thomas is becoming more active. He's started climbing the bathroom trash can, and this morning, I found him sleeping in there! I made him a nest inside a cat carrier in my bathroom, and he was calling that home until now. I guess the trash can is his new nest.

We always raise squirrels in our master bathroom because there's very little they can destroy in there, and there's a window that leads to the backyard. At 12 weeks, we'll crack the window and let him explore as he feels comfortable. Until then, expect to see more cute pics of Thomas!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Buffalo Bowl! Breakfast Sammich! & More!

Quarantine has certainly forced me to be more creative in the kitchen. I'm used to planning a week's worth of meals, typically from cookbooks on my shelf. I love cooking through my books, but buying specific ingredients for certain recipes can be expensive. That's okay for weekly shopping, but when I went shopping for a month's worth of groceries, I had to be more economical. I'm privileged to still be working from home and getting a paycheck, but these uncertain times definitely make me want to be a bit more thrifty.

So I bought a lot of stuff that could be used in many different meals. And now I'm finding ways to use all that stuff. One of my favorite meals lately was this Chipotle Buffalo Tofu & Cauliflower Bowl! I used this recipe from Hooked on Plants to make chipotle buffalo cauliflower (and I added some tofu in as well). I fried up some kale chips in the air fryer, and I cooked a little quinoa on the stovetop. That's all drizzled with cashew white bean ranch (like my normal cashew ranch but with added beans to bulk up the dressing up a bit).

I've also been loving breakfast sandwiches! I splurged on a pack of Just Egg folded eggs and Beyond Meat sausage patties because they're both new products I've been waiting to try. Enjoyed together on a whole wheat english muffin with some avocado. Breakfast perfection.

While I was 50K training last year and early this year, I was running every Saturday and Sunday morning. For six months!! But now I have Sundays off, so I'm back to my old routine of ramen and Netflix in my PJs, my fave Sunday tradition! For this bowl, I used Lotus Foods brown rice ramen with miso broth, tofu, broccoli, corn, and carrots.

Here's a big-ass salad! All the veggies, plus tofu, cashew ranch, homemade sprouted grain croutons, Miyoko's cheddar shreds, and toasted sunflower seeds.

And finally, here's last night's and tonight's awesome dinner — BBQ Soy Curl Sandwich with Air-Fried Fries. I ordered a six-pack of Butler Soy Curls at the start of the pandemic, and that was one of the best decisions I've made all year! The amazing bun here is a Lulu's potato bun (BEST BUNS EVER).