Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Coffee Cake! Bowls! Beans & Rice!

Still catching up on some older food pics from the past few weeks. About three weekends ago, I picked up some of LuLu's amazing Coffee Cake to enjoy for a Saturday breakfast. I had this before my run, which was a little decadent for pre-run but worth it!

Still eating Overnight Oats several days a week for breakfast. For this bowl, I stirred in some canned pumpkin that I had leftover from another recipe. It's topped with my homemade soy yogurt and some homemade peanut butter-tahini granola.

Here's a random quick weeknight dinner with brown rice, frozen broccoli, air-fried frozen tofu (that combo makes for some fun texture), tahini sauce, and toasted sesame seeds. Meals like this are my go-to when the groceries get low.

Any time I'm planning a visit to see my parents, I self-isolate for two weeks before the visit. And that even means no takeout! It's also a chance for me to save money and eat a little healthier. During my last quarantine, I was craving Imagine Vegan Cafe's Southern Staple Bowl, so I made a version at home! This has brown rice, 16-bean mix, collards, and garlic aioli (made by mixing Vegenaise with a little fresh garlic), plus pickled okra and cornbread on the side. I made a big batch of my Jalapeno-Corn Cornbread from Cookin' Crunk a couple weeks ago and froze some in individual portions for meals like this.

And finally, here's a film recommendation! A few weeks ago, I heard an interview with The Invisible Vegan's Jasmine C. Leyva on The Whistler Vegan Fest Podcast. The Invisible Vegan sounded awesome, so I watched it later that night on Amazon Prime. The film looks at plant-based eating’s historic roots in Black culture, the intersectionality of animal liberation and Black liberation, environmental racism around factory farming, and so much more. Check it out on Amazon Prime!

Monday, June 29, 2020

16 Year Anniversary Celebration!

Paul and I celebrated 16 years together this weekend! Our actual anniversary was on Sunday, June 28, but Saturday is a better day for celebrating (and Paul had to head to Nashville Sunday afternoon). We started our celebration with a champagne toast and some LuLu's Roman Pizza (focaccia with beet bacon, spinach, and onion).

By the way, I'm terrible at checking the vegan-ness of wines when I'm at the store, and this Martini & Rossi Asti is apparently fined with non-vegan by-products. So I'm not recommending it! I often don't think to check Barnivore until the wine is all gone. I'm not super-strict with vegan wines, but I don't want people to see it here and think it's vegan-friendly. I'll just look for a different sparkling wine next time (recommendations welcome!).

Neither of us has been to dinner at an actual restaurant since the COVID pandemic began, but everything has opened back up to 50% capacity here — despite an uptick in COVID cases. Sigh. So we figured we'd take our chances, and go on a real date. We both love Bhan Thai, so we enjoyed a nice dinner on their patio.

Outdoor gatherings are lower on the risk scale, and Bhan Thai was really great at distancing accommodations. Tables were well-spaced. Masks were required until you sit down. Staff wears masks at all times. It felt pretty darn safe! We both ordered the best dish on their menu — Pad See Ew with Tofu! I rarely go to a Thai place without ordering Pad See Ew, and Bhan Thai's is the best I've ever had.

Paul and I met at Newby's — a college bar near the University of Memphis — way back in 2004 over a game of pool. The way people used to meet back in the old days. It's so funny to me that people meet for dates on the internet now! We've made it an annual tradition to always close out anniversary date night with a game of pool at Newby's. They're open! I was definitely nervous about visiting a bar in the COVID era, but it had to be done.

We wore masks until we sat down, but we had to remove them to drink our beer. I'd hoped we could spend the evening on their patio, but it was packed when we arrived.  Fortunately, the tables inside were well-spaced to allow for distancing. Paul mentioned to the door guy that it was our anniversary, and the guy apparently told the band — the Memphis All-Stars — about it. So the band dedicated a song to us! Quite the surprise and very cool.

We enjoyed a couple drinks and played our annual pool game. I kind of hate pool, because I'm terrible at it, so this is typically the only game I play all year. We always take a shot like this one, where we're holding the numbered balls to represent the anniversary years. 

I probably won't be back in a bar for awhile. I know the bars are doing their best to keep things clean and safe, but the nature of drinking doesn't mesh with the nature of mask-wearing or distancing. So it makes me nervous! I'm down for drinking on a patio any time, but indoors can be a little scary in these crazy times.  By the way, I am NOT recommending anyone go out and risk catching anything! This was a special occasion, and we won't be doing this often. I work from home, and the only person I'm around on a regular basis is Paul. 

The next morning — Sunday — we slept in and enjoyed pancakes and vegan sausage. I used this never-fail recipe for Perfect Pancakes and fried up some Beyond Sausage Patties. We served these with Aperol Spritz Mimosas (OJ, Prosecco, Aperol).

Another great anniversary celebration! Oh, and I forgot to mention that Paul gifted me a lovely amethyst ring and some cubic zirconia earrings. We weren't supposed to do gifts, but he always likes to surprise me! Paul is quite the romantic, which is funny because I am so not romantic at all. He's an Aries, and I'm a Libra, so we're pretty much polar opposites in many ways. Like they say, opposites attract! 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Pesto! Beans & Cornbread! Sticky Rice!

My basil plant is poppin', y'all. I'm not great at gardening, but since I'm working from home, I've been slightly better at remembering to water things. My basil plant is doing great, and I've made several batches of pesto, including a batch for this Pesto Pasta one night. For my pesto, I combine a couple handfuls of basil, couple handfuls of spinach, 1/4 cup walnuts, 2 Tbsp. roasted almonds, 1/4 cup nooch, 2 cloves garlic, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, salt/pepper, and about 1/4-1/2 cup water.

At the start of the pandemic, I bought a lot of dry beans to stash. You know, just in case the shit really hit the fan. So far, that hasn't happened, so I'm just gonna eat these beans. This was a 16-Bean Soup mix that I got at Target. I cooked these in the Instant Pot with onion, broth, and some Liquid Smoke for that ham flavor you typically get in 16-bean soup. On the side, I made my Jalapeno-Corn Cornbread from Cookin' Crunk (minus the pickled jalapenos because I didn't have any).

I'm slowly working my way through every recipe in the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. I haven't made many of the desserts yet, so I'm digging into that chapter now. I made this Mango Sticky Rice with coconut milk, mango, and brown rice, and it was really yummy. And healthy!

Here's a pre-long run breakfast of Bagels with Hummuses! Two kinds — roasted red pepper and original. I think I had just enough of one hummus left for one bagel half, and then I had to open a new one.

And finally, here's an awesome Breakfast Sandwich with the last of my Just Egg folded eggs and some Beyond Meat sausage, plus Daiya and spinach (for good measure).

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Father's Day Fried Rice!

Since my parents are in the high-risk age group, I'm always extra-careful before I go visit them. I plan visits by self-isolating for 14 days just to make sure I'm not an asymptomatic carrier of coronavirus. So two weeks before the Friday before Father's Day, I stopped leaving my house for groceries or takeout (and I asked Paul to stay in Nashville for that time since he works with the public every day). I did continue my outdoor runs and bike rides during this time, but I avoided people (and the risk of contracting COVID on solo outdoor workouts is pretty darn low).

My parents and I celebrated Father's Day last Friday, and it was so nice to FINALLY get out and go somewhere. My parents live an hour away in Arkansas, so I took the day off work and drove down mid-day.

I love my dad!! He's pretty much the coolest person I know. He rides a Harley. He drinks whiskey and moonshine. He can cook anything (even amazing vegan food!) and fix anything. The only rules he follows are his own. Daddy taught me to question authority and never trust the system. He’s so punk rock! He also taught me to value of striving for perfection in everything you do. If you're going to do something, give it 100% and no less. And if you want something done right, do it yourself.

Speaking of moonshine, here's an old picture my mom recently found of my dad as a kid, holding a bottle of moonshine. Never change.

We celebrated Father's Day with a late lunch/early dinner of Smoked Tofu Veggie Stir-fry, Fried Brown Rice, and Veggie Spring Rolls. My mom did all the cooking this time! Both of my parents are excellent cooks, and sometimes, dinner is a team effort. But since it was Daddy's special day, Mama made everything. Well, except Daddy did smoke some tofu in advance of our meal. 

For the rice, Mama added Just Egg, and it was perfect! I haven't had fried rice in ages, and now I want more of this.

For dessert, Mama thawed out a Vegan Lemon Icebox Pie that she froze after our Mother's Day celebration. Tasted just as good as the day it was made! And it was perfect with a dollop of coco whip.

As for gifts, I got Daddy some more of his favorite Harley socks (the only kind he wears), and I picked up a hard-to-find bottle of Duke whiskey (one of his faves). It was a great day!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Summer Solstice/New Moon Food & Fun!

Summer Solstice was this weekend! Summer is my favorite season. Even though it's been ages since I've been in school and experienced the magic of a real summer off, that excitement for the season never left me. I love hot weather, outdoorsy activities, tank tops and short shorts. I love juicy summer tomatoes and sweet, sticky watermelon. I love pools and beaches and anything involving bodies of water.

Solstice technically began on June 20 (Saturday), and it ran through June 21 (Sunday). So, of course I made it a two-day celebration! Early Saturday morning, Paul and I drove to Moscow, Tennessee, (about an hour from Memphis) to kayak the Ghost River. Last summer, we canoed this swampy river for the first time and swore we'd never do it again. It was so hard in a canoe! But kayaks are much easier to navigate with, so we thought we'd give it another try.

It was sooooo much better in a kayak. Light-years better. There are so many twisty turns and narrow passages. We met our friend Kevin there, and the three of us stuck together during the six-hour kayak trip. We stopped on a sandbar mid-way through for lunch. I packed vegan black forest ham sandwiches (made with Simple Truth deli meats), Chao cheese, Veganaise, avocado, and tomato. Here I am with a half-eaten sammich!

After the trip, we were exhausted. But Paul had just bought us a new gas grill the night before, and we needed to break it in. Luckily, with a gas grill, that just means turning a knob! I broke in the new grill with a Beyond Brat (topped with chow chow and dijon).

The next day was not only Litha (Summer Solstice) but also a new moon! And Father's Day! I spent Friday with my parents for an early Father's Day, and I'll blog about that tomorrow. But on Sunday, Paul went back to Nashville for work (after we got in a 5-mile run), so I made a big New Moon/Litha feast for one. 

I started with some fresh Raspberry Lemonade made with muddled raspberries, lemon juice, sugar, and sparkling water. Perfect refreshment while I fired up the grill.

For my starter, I made Salad on a Stick from the 2020 Sabbats Almanac (that's also where I got the lemonade recipe). The recipe called for feta or mozz, but I made tofu feta for these cute little kabobs!

My dad had sent me home with some smoked tofu on Friday, so I coated that in BBQ sauce and fired up the grill. I also made fresh pesto from my basil plant and coated some veggies (squash, zucchini, and eggplant) for the grill. Our pepper plants are starting to produce some peppers, and I was able to throw a few banana peppers on the grill too. I used the grill's side burner to make a pot of quinoa.

To serve, I set the real dinner table (not my little kitchen two-seater, where I usually eat) with a placemat and all my utensils! I used the hand-me-down plates my mom gave me. These were her "good dishes" in the 1990s, and I love how retro '90s they are.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Macro Bowls & Fried Tofu!

One of my all-time favorite meals is humble vegan bowl. All you need is a grain, a green, a bean, and a sauce, and you've got yourself one of the healthiest and tastiest meals in the world. Add some kraut or kimchi, and you've stepped it up a couple notches. This Macro Bowl (loosely based on a recipe from Muffy Davis' old Reset & Restore program) is a perfect example — brown rice, chickpeas, air-fried tofu, avocado, pickled onion, kimchi, and peanut coconut sauce.

One night a couple weekends ago, I made a simple Teriyaki Tofu Stir-fry with fresh veggies and air-fried tofu for Paul and I.

When the COVID lockdown began, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Binh, temporarily closed, but they had a few pop-up events. Those pop-ups were so insanely busy that I opted to just wait until they reopened for takeout. They finally did, so I got myself some of their famous Lemongrass Tofu (with added broccoli) and a Tofu Veggie Spring Roll. Lawd, this stuff is good. And with takeout, they give you enough for at least three meals!

I combined some of that leftover tofu with leftover teriyaki stir-fry (with added bean sprouts) for an extra yummy dinner!

At the start of the pandemic, I ordered a bunch of Soy Curls! The Soy Curls came with a few recipes, one of which was for Soy Curl Curry Rice. It was pantry/freezer-friendly with brown rice and frozen mixed veggies. I made it in the Instant Pot for a quick and simple dinner.

And finally, here's my last "baby Bianca eating" photo! In this one, I'm not in the process of eating. But I'm about to shove this pastry into my mouth, and I look quite pleased about it. I also love that I'm wearing some kind of baby Converse knock-offs because that's still my standard daily shoe!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Review: SuperFat Nut Butter

Y'all, I love nut butter. On toast. On a banana. Atop my oats. On a PB&J. Or straight from spoon to mouth. Doesn't matter how it gets in me, just as long as it does. I don't have a nut preference. I like them all — from peanut and almond to cashew and macadamia. They're all the best.

SuperFat asked me if I'd like to review their vegan/keto/no sugar added nut butters, and of course I said yes! They shipped me a sample box filled with little single-serve squeeze tubes.

These come in Cacao Coconut, Coffee + MCT, Macadamia Coconut, Protein, and Macadamia MCT + Probiotics. Besides just nuts, these also have added fats, like coconut butter or MCT oil. They're marketed to the keto crowd, hence all that extra fat. Now, as a vegan, I'm the furthest thing from keto! I follow a high-carb, low-fat diet for the most part, but I'm not opposed to the occasional bit of coconut oil. 

One nut butter — Protein — has less added oil, but it does have added sunflower protein, and it's lightly sweetened with erythritol. I enjoyed that one atop a bowl of oats with maple and fresh fruit after a morning run and yoga session. It has a base of almonds and macadamia nuts and tasted very natural (despite the sweetener and protein).

The Cacao Coconut was amazing on fresh apple slices! It has a base of coconut oil and almonds with cacao powder and macadamia and pink salt. It's lightly stevia-sweetened, but what really shines is the coconut. The pink salt helps to bring out the flavor.

SuperFat says the Coffee + MCT is like "vegan butter coffee." YUM! Although I'm not a regular butter coffee consumer, I have made coconut butter coffee and really liked it. It was too much fat for me to do regularly, but it makes a nice treat! And that's what this nut butter with almonds, macadamia nuts, MCT oil, and freeze-dried coffee tasted like. I enjoyed this over a bowl of mashed banana, apple, and strawberry. Like a smoothie but not blended.

The Macadamia + Coconut was as simple as it sounds. Just coconut oil, macadamia nuts, almonds, and pink salt. There was no stevia in this one, which I was excited about. I don't dislike stevia, but I prefer unsweetened nut butters the most! This was smooth and creamy and perfect atop oats with banana and strawberry.

Lastly, I enjoyed the Macadamia MCT + Probiotics. This one was also unsweetened, so the pink salt really shines. It's macadamia, MCT oil, cinnamon, and probiotics. Enjoyed on sprouted grain toast with agave. A perfect and simple breakfast!

These nut butters are AMAZING, especially for people looking to get more plant-based fats into their diet. I know vegan keto is a thing, so those folks would love these! I'll stick with my high-carb diet to boost my athletic goals, but I would so splurge on these all the time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Junk Food Meets Health Food!

I'm a Libra, so naturally, I'm all about that balance! Most of the time, I eat a whole foods, plant-based diet with low oil and limited sweets (I enjoy dessert a couple times a week!). But deep down in my heart, I'll always be a junk food vegan. That stuff doesn't make me feel great after I eat it, but it feels really good going down!

Once a week in the pandemic, I've been treating myself to Imagine Vegan Cafe takeout. They have a few healthier selections, but they pride themselves on being a haven for vegans who want to indulge. And so, when I order from Imagine, I typically do just that. Last week, I treated myself to this amazing platter of Vegan Turkey Cutlets, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Mac & Vegan Cheese, and Seasoned Greens.

Last Friday was National Donut Day! And lucky me, I had some cream-filled donuts from Darling Donuts Memphis in the freezer. I thawed a chocolate one and enjoyed as an indulgent afternoon snack.

And now for the balance! No Meat Athlete shared a recipe to their email newsletter list for these Pumpkin Spice Protein Date Balls. I subscribe to Complement Plus protein powder, and I had some extra left from last month. So it was the perfect excuse to use some in date balls! These have dates, cashews, coconut, pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, and protein powder, and they've been a nice treat when I'm craving something sweet post-workout.

Most days, I get my fruit servings in my morning protein smoothies, but on weekends, I have to be a little more creative. I've been loving Banana Nice Cream for that (I added strawberries for this!). 

And finally, here's a weird and yummy breakfast inspired by the Engine 2 Plant-Strong podcast. On a recent episode, Jane Esselstyn (Rip's sister) mentioned that she liked Savory Oats with Kale and Pickled Ginger. It sounds yummy and macrobiotic-y, so I tried it. Really good! I seasoned the oats with soy sauce and steamed the kale. Will eat again!

And now for another picture of me as a kid, stuffing my face with cake. My mom found all these old pics of me eating. In this one, I am REALLY into this cake. Like 100% focused. Eyes on the prize. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Avocado Toast & Savory Waffles!

As I've adjusted to this new stay-at-home-most-of-the-time life, I've learned to eat a little simpler. Gone are the days when I could just run to the neighborhood Kroger to get food for one recipe. Now, we have to think ahead and buy in bulk. Often, I'm eating the same meal every day but with a little twist to make it special each time.

Take, for example, Avocado Toast! I always buy a bunch of green avocados when I do my big grocery trip, so they last about a week. It's always a sad day when the avocados run out. I've been enjoying avo toast for lunch a few days a week, but I try to add different toppings each time. My fave is always with added tofu! Here's some toasties with tofu and fresh tomato. 

And here's avocado toast with shredded carrots and scallions. It was a fun and colorful combo that I'd definitely eat again.

And finally, here's some avo toast that I had for lunch on Sunday. I topped this with herbs from my front yard garden — basil, cilantro, and parsley, plus a squeeze of lime and some pink salt.

I'm not cooking out of cookbooks as often as I did before the pandemic, but I'm still working on my goal to cook every recipe in the No Meat Athlete Cookbook! One of those recipes — Olive-Chickpea Waffles — was easily made with stuff I had on-hand. These are made with chickpea flour and flecked with Italian spices and kalamata olives, so they taste a bit like pizza waffles. They recommend to serve them with hummus/avocado or marinara, so I tried both! I had kale with nooch on the side both times. I love how long fresh kale keeps in the fridge!

And now for something funny! My mom has been sorting through my Granny's old photos, and she keeps finding baby pictures of me with food. Like, in every single photo, I'm eating! I've always loved to eat! I thought I'd share one per day for a few days. Here's one of me eating what looks like fries and some kind of fried meat (sorry!) in my undies. With food all over my face. No shame.