Friday, July 31, 2020

Southern Fried Family Supper!

Since I've been working from home during the pandemic, I've been able to self-isolate for two weeks prior to visits with my parents. Since they're in the high-risk age group, I wouldn't feel comfortable going around them if I were around people. But when I plan a visit, I ask Paul to stay in Nashville for two weeks (since he's still working with people every day), and I go on one big grocery trip to get me through until after I visit my parents. I did that in May and June, so I planned a July visit for last Friday.

We have an annual tradition of one big Southern fried meal every summer, when all the summer produce is poppin'! So last Friday, my mom cooked an amazing, indulgent supper of Fried Squash, Fried Zucchini, Fried Okra, Fried Green Tomatoes, Fried Potatoes and Beans and Cornbread (plus, some fresh summer tomato slices for good measure). 

I LOVE MEALS LIKE THIS!! They don't really love me back, and I spend the rest of the day feeling sluggish and bloated, but it's totally worth it once a year. My parents have been on a keto diet lately, and they were most excited about getting to eat beans again. I can't imagine a life without beans!

We were stuffed from dinner, so we waited a few hours before treating ourselves to dessert. Mama made Peach Melba, which is a dessert I'd never heard of. It's ice cream (we used So Delicious Vanilla Bean) with fresh peaches, strawberry preserves, and coconut whip. Such a perfect, light summer treat. Light, as in texturally light! Nothing about this meal was calorie-light, and that's a-okay!

We took a family selfie!

While I was in town, my mom and I drove over to my Me-Maw's house for a quick socially distant visit on her porch. Even though I'd isolated, I still didn't want to get too close to Me-Maw because she's in her 80s. But she's in great health! Love my Me-Maw! 

Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Backyard Camping!

After Bonnaroo Music & Arts Fest was postponed and then cancelled this year, Paul and I were bummed that we'd be missing our annual camping trip. We go to 'Roo every year and camp in the guest camping grounds. It's festival camping at its finest — easy access to showers, a coffee bar, and plenty of porta-potties, and just a mile walk from the festival grounds. With that option out, we decided that we should try to go actual camping in actual nature this year instead!

I'm always down for tent camping, as primitive as possible. But Paul is a bit of a diva and complains about the heat in the tent every year. So he invested in a small pull-behind RV, and we're planning to take it to Asheville, North Carolina in the fall. But we had to test it out first! Paul brought the RV home from Nashville last weekend, and we camped out in the backyard.

The best part about camping at home is you still have all your stuff inside the house, and you can go inside to pee. We also had access to our gas grill, so we started our evening of camping by grilling some vegan brats, zucchini, corn on the cob, and asparagus. 

Then, we headed inside the tiny camper to watch a scary movie (The Grudge) until the sun went down. The camper is tiny! Inside, there's a couch that folds into a bed, a TV/DVD player, and some cabinets for storage. That's all!

After the movie, we enjoyed some summer drinks (Crosstown Brewing Boat Drinks margarita gose & Memphis Made Fun lime hard seltzer for me!) and made a bonfire in our fire pit. We roasted Dandies, and I made some s'mores with dark chocolate and Belvita oat breakfast biscuits (I couldn't find vegan grahams at Kroger, but those Belvita biscuits make perfect s'mores).

Am I the only one who likes my marshmallows blackened? I roast hot dogs like this too!

We slept in the camper. It wasn't as comfy as my bed, but it was fun to pretend we were in the woods! And Maynard was right inside the house, so I didn't even need a dog-sitter. 

The next morning, I was super-excited to try out the camper's kitchen. The back opens up to reveal an outdoor kitchen space with two gas burners, a mini fridge, a sink, and microwave. The night before, I packed everything we'd need to make pancakes and vegan sausage in the camper. Still wearing clothes from the day before!

Then we enjoyed instant coffee (yay camping!) with our pancakes and sausage on the back porch. The sausage was quinoa-seitan sausage from The Be-Hive in Nashville. 

What a fun weekend! I can't wait until we can take this camper on the road!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

On Tuesdays, I Run 4 Tacos! Also on Saturdays!

Happy Taco Tuesday! I have a taco-themed post for you today, but full disclosure: I ate these tacos on Saturday. Also had tacos today, but they're not in this post.

On Saturday morning, Paul and I ran a couple of virtual races! A few weeks into the pandemic, after all the in-person races were cancelled, the internet exploded with virtual races. At first, I wasn't so sure I'd be terribly excited about a race without a start line/finish line, post-race beer, etc.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and so we signed up for a few virtual races. We ran the Marathon Training Academy Social Distancing Half Marathon back on June 8, and then we started getting Facebook ads from this company called I Run 4 Movement. They had so many fun race themes, so we signed up for a few. Here's how it works: You pay a small registration fee (these were $35), and they ship you a race bib, a tank or tee, and an awesome medal. And then it's just on the honor system. You can run the "race" any time, and it's up to you to make sure you run the distance you signed up for.

I Run 4 Movement had lots food and drink themes, which I love, so I picked a taco run and a doughnut run, mostly because I could give myself a fun, themed post-run celebration. I did my I Run 4 Tacos 10K race on Saturday, and Paul did the Run to the Future 5K (a Back to the Future theme). The tagline on his medal sash and shirt said "Just don't set it for 2020." Ha!

By the way, you can't tell in this picture, but my Goodr sunglasses have tiny tacos all over them! We ran our "races" through Overton Park, so we could stay in the shade because it's HOT in Memphis these days! I love running in the heat, but shade is always best. 

Y'all, I set a new 10K PR!!!!!!!!!! Since my races were cancelled, I've refocused my running goals for 2020 to work on my speed. For all of June, I did a training plan (through Can't Stop Endurance Training) to improve my mile time, and in July, I signed up for a training plan to work on my 5K time. All that speed work is paying off! And I shaved about three minutes off my previous best 10K time.

Paul didn't fare so well. He did a 5K, so I ran two 1.5-ish mile loops while he waited in the car, and then he joined me for the last 2 1.5-ish mile loops. He was struggling in the heat and having some back pain, so I smoked him and finished several minutes ahead of him. That never happens, so it made me feel good! He was still glad to be done when he was, and we had some fun taking finish line pics with our homemade finish line in the park.

After our runs, we headed home to shower, and then I rewarded myself with some Vegan Beef & Refried Pumpkin Tacos and a Cayman Jack margarita beer! I have to say, this was way better than any finish line meal I've ever had a real race.

Taco close-up!! Inside is seasoned Pure Farmland vegan beef crumbles, refried pumpkin (from The Low Carb Vegetarian Cookbook), mushrooms, peppers, onions, avocado, Daiya cheese, tomato, lettuce, and cashew sour cream. 

After our races, we had another fun adventure on Saturday! But I'll save that for tomorrow's post!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Burgers! Pancakes! More!

Before I get into tonight's post, I want to share my latest freelance piece in Edible Memphis. I wrote a Memphis Vegan Guide that went live today. There's a more exhaustive list on this blog (it's linked in the right-side column), but this new guide hits the highlights (and it's illustrated with some beautiful images).

Okay, now here's a beautiful burger! I tried the Pure Farmland plant-based beef, which is about $1 less than Beyond Burger at Sprouts. It's okay! It's not as good as Beyond, so I'll probably stick with the original, but this isn't too bad. Unfortunately, you can't see the patty here because my melty Chao Cheese took it over. But it was prepared on the grill and served on a LuLu's sourdough potato bun.

On the side, I grilled some sliced potatoes in foil. And I whipped up a quick Summer Tomato Salad with tomatoes and cucumbers from my garden.

I picked up some Be-Hive Vegan Sausage on my last Nashville visit. It's made with their house-made seitan and quinoa. Really yummy with a good fennel-y sausage taste. I tried it with Oat Flour Pancakes and some fresh nectarine last Sunday morning.

I think I'm finally over Overnight Oats (but you may see a few more pics as I get caught up!). After eating it several days a week for 3-4 weeks, it's time for a change. But here's one of my favorite overnight oats combos —oats, berries, granola, and a drizzle of 88 Acres roasted pumpkin seed butter.

And finally, here's a yummy snack from my July Goddess Provisions box. These monthly boxes have crystals, candles, oils, and more. And some month's, they include a snack! This month, the box had a desert magic theme, and they included these Sun & Swell Foods Date & Cashew Cookies. They're really just date balls, but they were very tasty! 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Sandwich Time!

Who doesn't love a good sandwich? Everything tastes better when enjoyed between two slices of bread, right? I've even been eating sandwiches for breakfast lately! This Daily Grinder Sandwich is from the breakfast chapter of the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. It has bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, avocado, pickled onion, spinach, and hummus. The recipe called for sprouts too, but I didn't have any.

Burgers count as sandwiches! Last week, I had Farm Burger's Vegan Burger with Sweet Potato Fries delivered! I'm not usually one to do delivery, but Crosstown Concourse (the building where Farm Burger is located) offers free delivery within a 4-mile radius. I love this veggie/quinoa-based patty! They've had this for awhile (it replaced Impossible when it Impossible became impossible to keep in stock, thanks to Burger King!). As much as I love the Impossible, I feel better health-wise when I have this veggie patty. And now it has new toppings — vegan mayo and tomato chow chow.

I'm sure I've showed you enough LuLu's Brekky Sandwiches to last a lifetime, but here's another! They've been making the "bacon" with beets lately (instead of the usual carrots), and I like it!! Tofu egg, beet bacon, cashew cheese, sourdough potato bun.

Speaking of LuLu's, here's something that's not a sandwich. They've started offering sourdough bagels, and Don (the sourdough wiz at LuLu's) gave me a Pumpkin Seed Bagel to test. It was perfect! I loved the toasted seeds on top. I enjoyed it with some 88 Acres Pumpkin Seed Butter before a long run. That 88 Acres butter is AMAZING! And green!

Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Review: PlantMade Frozen Meals

I'm not usually one to load my grocery cart with frozen meals, mostly because they're typically sub-par for the price. I wouldn't mind paying a premium for an amazing frozen dish, but most are just meh. But when I first started seeing PlantMade by Matthew Kenney pop up in my Instagram feed, I was intrigued. Matthew Kinney is among the most celebrated chefs on the vegan scene, and if he was willing to put his name on a frozen meal, it HAD to be good.

PlantMade reached out to ask if I'd be willing to review of a few of those meals, and I do not regret that choice! Y'ALL. These are light-years beyond any other frozen meal I've had. The flavor, the textures, the serving sizes. Everything is perfect. I'll go through each dish I tried and let you know what I thought, but here's a round-up of everything they sent me to review.

One note before I go on: You can bake these or microwave them, but as we all know, the oven yields best results. So I baked all of these rather than prepare them in the microwave. I'm sure that had some effect on texture, so just keep that in mind as you read the reviews. You may have different results when microwaving! Since I'm still working from home, it just made sense to use the oven since I'm in no rush to prepare my lunch.

It's hard to pick a favorite because I loved everything, but the most impressive among these was probably the Grilled Cauliflower Steak. This golden cauliflower steak is served atop a bed of wild rice and topped with garlicky chimichurri and mojo marinade. I've been served a cauli-steak in actual steakhouse that was on par with this. Seriously, you could serve someone this dish, and they'd have no idea it was a frozen meal. I loved how the edges were toasted, even though the dish was baked with its plastic wrapping in place.

It was obvious that a lot of care went into preparing these dishes. They weren't just some convenience food after-thought. These are restaurant-quality meals that just happen to be convenient. My second favorite was the Cacio e Pepe Mac & Cheeze. The creamy cashew cheese boasted so much complex flavor. I noticed the ingredients included rice wine vinegar and cane sugar, and I think that tangy salty sweetness all played very well together. And it was so creamy!

I honestly wasn't expecting too much from the Chickpea Curry. Not that I thought it would be bad, but I didn't expect it to blow me away. I make chickpea dishes from scratch quite often, so I figured it would be as good as something I would make. But I didn't think it would be better. Well, I would be wrong, because this was dish was better than anything I've ever made! With flavors of curry, coconut, tomato, Spanish onion, and garlic, this dish was fantastic. I served it with a slice of LuLu's Country Loaf for sopping up all the juices.

I also wasn't expecting much from the Jackfruit Carnitas Over Grain Medley Trio, because I don't love jackfruit (This was the first of the meals I tried, so my expectations weren't as high). I don't hate jackfruit, but I'm not usually impressed with it. It's often too soggy and not flavorful enough. But this dish was the furthest thing from "not flavorful enough." The jackfruit is marinated in tomatoes, thyme, garlic, and other spices, and it was outstanding. The jackfruit is served over a quinoa and rice blend, which was also quite tasty. I was really hungry, so I opted to serve some of the jackfruit in corn tortillas (with the rest on the side) and added some cashew sour cream and fresh avocado. A perfect meal!

Besides the single-serving entrees, PlantMade also offers a few patties (like salmon-less burgers and crab-less cakes), snacks (buffalo cauliflower), and desserts (vegan cheesecake). They didn't send me any cheesecake to sample, but these Buffalo Cauliflower Bites were pure magic. I baked these in the oven, and they were crisp and just as perfect as if I hand-battered and fried them in oil. I served with some Imagine Vegan Cafe ranch for dipping! You get quite a few servings in a bag, so these will last awhile.

Finally, they also sent me the Crab-less Cakes to try. I should preface this by saying that I've never had an actual crab cake, and when I ate meat, I didn't like seafood. So, I have no idea how these flaky cakes compare with real crab, but these were good. The best part to me was that they weren't at all fishy-tasting. They're made with artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and pea fiber, and while there is a little seaweed in the ingredient list, it's not at all overpowering. I made some remoulade (with Vegenaise) to serve with these, and I had curried mashed potatoes and steamed kale on the side. Felt very fancy.

And there ya go! My overall consensus — PlantMade are best frozen meals on the market! It's clear with every bite that a professional vegan chef designed these recipes, and his integrity shows shines through in the quality. I haven't been to Whole Foods or Sprouts here in awhile (thanks pandemic, for ruining grocery shopping), so I'm not sure if these are available in my area yet. I've been dreaming of that cauli-steak and mac and cheese ever since I finished the last bites! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Pizzeria Trasimeno

Opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic might seem a little crazy, but it's also an ideal situation for a new business owner to test the waters. You start small with takeout/delivery only, and you can slowly build up your menu as you gain a loyal following. That's what Pizzeria Trasimeno has done!

This new Neapolitan pizza restaurant inside Crosstown Concourse (the building where I work when I'm not working from home) opened in May with takeout and delivery only. They've been adding a couple new pizzas every few weeks, and they just added a vegan pizza! The Pizza del Giardino is loaded with so many veggies! Arugula, asparagus, artichokes, tomatoes, red onions, mushrooms, kalamata olives, fresh spicy pepper blend, roasted garlic, capers, and a balsamic reduction!

They don't carry vegan cheese, but this authentic style pizza doesn't need it. It's more reminiscent of a classic Neapolitan Pizza Marinara, like you'd find in Italy. It's a perfect, chewy flatbread that's loaded with veggies. The crust is just amazing. Honestly, I could eat an entire crust by itself! They're cooked at very high temps in wood-fired ovens that were imported from Italy.

I ordered my pizza last Friday (my weekly pizza night!) with free delivery, which is offered through their website for any delivery within a four-mile radius of Crosstown Concourse. Until last week, I've never had anything delivered in my life (that I remember anyway), mostly because delivery fees are outrageous, and I don't mind picking food up myself. But free delivery is a good deal, and that leaves more money to tip the driver.

Pizzeria Trasimeno also has a full bar with cocktails, Italians beers, and wines, plus some locally brewed Crosstown Brewing Co. beers. While they're not open for dining yet, you can eat your takeout order (and drink your cocktail) on their spacious outdoor patio.

Wanna know more about the story behind Pizzeria Trasimeno? As part of my job as Crosstown Concourse communications coordinator, I write the newsletter, and I recently wrote an article about Pizzeria Trasimeno owner Sabine Langer's love for all things Italy. Check it out!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Animal Rights Protests and Meal Themes!

Last Tuesday, I took part in a socially distanced animal rights demonstration with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. They have a nationwide campaign going to raise awareness about the terrible conditions for workers in meat processing plans in relation to COVID-19. Years ago, my friend Vaughan and I ran a little Memphis-based animal rights group, and we held rallies and leaflet events several times a month. But we both moved more into the vegan meetup world and started organizing social gatherings for vegans instead rallies. Vaughan still has contacts at PCRM though, and they asked us to put a quick demo together.

Nicole, an awesome vegan activist who brought her whole family (she has 4 kids) to the demo, took this awesome photo!

We stood on Front Street downtown near Adams (in front of City Hall), and while there wasn't as much traffic as there would have been pre-COVID, we still had plenty of cars pass by. A number of city employees passed us on the sidewalk, and we were overwhelmed by how many offered words of support. One guy saw my "Meat Is Not Essential" sign and said "You're right! It's not!" I know we've got a long way to go, but I really do see the country moving in a more vegan direction. I'm hoping the meat shortages will further help people see that they really don't need meat.

Now onto the food! I'm still sticking with my weekly meal themes. Monday is still Macaroni Monday, which means I eat some kind of pasta dish. Last week, that was Pasta Marinara with Bean Balls from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. The balls are made with white beans, hence their light color, and they were really tasty.

Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, but I count anything in a tortilla. Last Tuesday, that was an Olive Quesadilla from Crazy Sexy Diet. I pulled this book off the shelf in my ongoing effort to cook something from every cookbook I have. This yummy 'dilla has Daiya cheese, kalamatas, roasted red peppers, caramelized onion, and spinach.

Wednesday is Wok Wednesday, so I focus on stir-fries, ramen, noodle dishes, anything I can eat with chopsticks! Last week, I made a Soy Curl Stir-fry with chicken-seasoned Soy Curls, broccoli, and bell pepper (seasoned with hoison) over brown rice.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Recipe: Turmeric Curry Mashed Potatoes a la Carol

Years ago, I met a very awesome lady named Carol. She was a Memphis transplant and quickly became part of our Memphis vegan community. I remember she greeted me in our first in-person meeting (we'd met online before) by gifting me hand-knitted potholders. So cool!

Carol eventually moved away for work, and now she lives in Wisconsin. But we've stayed connected through social media. Shortly after the pandemic started, Carol messaged me and asked if I'd like to receive a handwritten recipe for her Turmeric-Curry Mashed Potatoes in the mail. Um, of course I would!! The recipe arrived in the mail a week or so later, and it was like a little gift! Carol gave me permission to share this here on the blog. If you'd like to try the recipe yourself, you can click on the picture below, and it will expand into a more readable version.

Carol could have just typed out a recipe, and I'd have been happy with that. But she took the time to write her recipe out by hand and even added a little illustration of a cute bowl of mashed potatoes. She's been making this recipe for 14 years!

I finally got a chance to try these beautiful orange taters last Sunday as a side dish for some vegan crab cakes that I'll be reviewing soon. In Carol's recipe, she calls for potato flakes, which are a great pantry staple in times like these. But I'd stocked up on whole potatoes a few weeks before, so I used fresh potato instead. These were creamy and loaded with curry spice, so they have an Indian flair. A really yummy alternative to plain old white taters!

Carol says this recipe works great for any tuber, and I'd bet sweet potatoes would work especially well. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Hot Dog! Pizza! Fried Rice!

I try to get weekly takeout from Imagine Vegan Cafe because I think it's more important than ever to support our local restaurants during the pandemic. And last week, I was craving a vegan hot dog, so I ordered Imagine's Messy Dog, which is topped with vegan bean chili, vegan cheese, kraut, relish, and jalapenos. I ordered a side of Potato Salad to enjoy with it! Such a perfect summer meal.

I'm still doing my weekly meal themes, and every Friday is PIZZA NIGHT! Last Friday, Paul wanted to grill out, so I decided to grill my pizza. I had some pre-made crusts from Sprouts, and I topped this with all kinds of veggies (tomato, basil, olives, banana peppers). After grilling, I added avocado slices to make this an official Avocado Pizza!

I usually get a LuLu's Brekky Sandwich to go on Friday mornings. That comes with tofu egg, cashew cheese, and carrot/beet bacon. Last week, I asked if I could change it up and sub their homemade black-eyed pea sausage for the tofu egg. They serve the sausage on their sausage-biscuits typically. Loved this variation! The best part of this is their fluffy sourdough potato bun! Freshly baked and delicious.

Here's a recent quick lunch of Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup (a packaged soup from Proper Good) with a Vegan Grilled Cheese (with Chao, tomato from my garden, and spinach).

And finally, here's some yummy Tofu Egg Fried Rice that I made on Wok Wednesday (another of my weekly meal themes). I didn't have Just Egg, so I tried to make a tofu omelet (with chickpea flour and tofu) and then scramble that and add to the rice. But the omelet didn't firm up all the way. So I stirred the tofu egg mix into fried rice, and then I pan-fried it in a pancake style until brown. It was a happy accident that turned out to be really yummy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Vegan Mom Saturday Pop-Ups!

Erica Hughes, better known as The Vegan Mom, has been doing vegan catering and meal prep for a long time. But I only recently discovered her on Instagram after a runner friend mentioned her at my Crosstown Run Crew meetup. That Run Crew, like almost everything in the world, is on pause right now. But The Vegan Mom is still very much at it! She's now doing Saturday pop-ups for awesome vegan meals to go.

I'd been wanting to try her food for some time, but the pick-up location is a good 30-minute drive from my house in Midtown Memphis. Last Saturday, I finally got the time to commit the hour round-trip drive!

She offers fun, indulgent vegan meals, like Philly Cheesesteaks, Un-chicken Sandwiches, Buffalo Cauliflower, and Bang Bang Broccoli. And there's always a lovingly prepared Southern dessert. Since I had quite a bit going on this Saturday, I wanted some things that I could pick up and eat throughout the weekend, so I went with the Vegan Rotel.

Y'all. Growing up in the South, we had rotel dip at every potluck and party. Folks here have cheese dip in their veins, I swear. Arkansas (where I'm from) even has a state-wide cheese dip trail, so tourists can travel the state and sample its finest cheese dips. True story. All this is to say, I KNOW good rotel, and The Vegan Mom's rotel was top notch! Even Paul liked it, and he still claims to not like vegan cheese. By the way, I've often said the one non-vegan food I miss the most is Pancho's Cheese Dip (the official cheese dip of the Mid-South). The Vegan Mom's dip was just as good as Pancho's, and that is high praise in these parts.

And just as cheese dip is my favorite snack food, my fave dessert is the decidedly Southern Banana Puddin. There's just something about creamy pudding, sliced banana, and vanilla cookies that just tastes like magic in your mouth. So I had to grab some of The Vegan Mom's puddin' too!

This was perfect. Creamy, dreamy. Loaded with cookies. Just the way I like it.

If you're local, check out The Vegan Mom's social pages to see her weekly menus, and place your order. The Vegan Mom posts her weekly menu on her Facebook page and Instagram. Orders must be placed and paid for (through Cash App) before 5 pm on Thursdays, and pick-up is on Saturdays between noon-3 pm. If you're looking for a way to support Black-owned, vegan business in Memphis, you definitely should check out The Vegan Mom!!