Thursday, July 22, 2021

Bratwurst Bowl, Burger Salad, & Pancakes!

I picked up some Viana Baby Bratwurst at Ester's Pub in Little Rock a couple weekends ago, but I wasn't sure what to do with them. These tofu-based brats are about half the size of buns, so eating them the traditional way was out. So I decided to cut them up and saute with brat toppings (bell pepper and onion) and serve them up bowl-style over some roasted potatoes. Topped with Trader Joe's Zhuong Sauce! Have y'all tried this yet? The Zhuong Sauce is so good!

Since I'm back in the office now, I'm trying to eat at Crosstown Concourse restaurants at least once a week. Last week, I treated myself to a Superfood Salad with a Vegan Patty at Farm Burger. You can get it with their house-made patty (like I did) or a Beyond patty. I love this salad because it's loaded with nooch and fried chickpeas.

Curb Market in Crosstown Concourse has been serving Buffalo Cauliflower on Wednesdays, so I got some as a little desk snack one morning.

Here's my Friday night dinner of Spaghetti with Meatballs! Perfect night-before-my-long-run meal. The meatballs are by Farm Rich, and they were on clearance at Kroger. They were really good!

And finally, here are some Monday morning pancakes! My rest days from running are Mondays and Fridays, so I get bigger sit-down breakfasts on those days. Last Monday, I made Chickpea-Oat Pancakes (gluten-free!) and served with Dr. Praeger's Sunday Funday Veggie Sausages (probably not gluten-free!).

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Product Review: Tofuture Tofu Press

I'll admit it. I'm lazy, and I never press my tofu. Sure, it improves the texture and helps tofu absorb marinades. But my old Tofu Xpress press cracked years ago, and I'm just too lazy to do the paper towel and plate trick. So I've just been living with inferior tofu for years. Until now!

Tofuture sent me a free press to review, and it's upped my tofu game 100%! This little plastic gadget does an impressive job of squeezing all the extra water out of my 'fu. If you're a newbie vegan or veg-curious reader, I should probably explain: Tofu is packed in water to preserve its freshness, but since tofu is basically a sponge, it absorbs a lot of water from the packaging. And that means fluffier tofu that isn't very firm. It also leaves less room for the tofu to absorb any tasty marinade you might want to use. A tofu press takes out the legwork (or rather arm work) of pressing the water out yourself.

Here's how it works. The Tofuture has three pieces — a top lid press, a middle basket, and a bottom piece that catches the excess water. You place the tofu into the basket and place the basket into the bottom piece. And then you clamp down the top press and leave it in your fridge for anywhere from an hour to overnight. The longer you press, the more water comes out. The bands are also adjustable so you can customize how pressed you want your tofu to be.

I also love that the press stamps this cut little logo into the tofu!

Look at all that water collected from a recent press. 

I used the press to prepare some tofu for the grill. I find that firmer, less watery tofu does better on the grill. These slabs were marinated for about two hours in a soy sauce/garlic marinade. 

They were perfect served with grilled corn, potato salad, grilled asparagus, and grilled squash.

Last night, I used my Tofuture press to prep tofu for a Kohlrabi & Tofu Stir-fry. I pressed the tofu for about 8 hours (while I was at work), and then I cubed it and air-fried for 15 minutes on 400 degrees. I didn't even use a marinade since I made my own stir-fry sauce with soy sauce, hoisin, and cornstarch.

Just look at that tofu! I air-fry tofu all the time, and it never gets this crispy. But pressing made for a much crispier tofu cube.

I love this press! My old Tofu Xpress did a good job, but it was made of a hard plastic that cracked over time. This much softer plastic on the Tofuture seems like it will hold up for years. And the stretchy bands seems sturdy. It's also BPA-free and dishwasher-safe.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Rip's Big Bowl & More Bowls!

I've been steadily cooking my way through The Plant-Based Athlete by Matt Frazier and Robert Cheeke! I posted a full review of this new guide for vegan athletes here. And after reading the whole book (in record time for me, I might add! I couldn't put it down!), I'm now on a mission to make everything from the book.

Here's a recent breakfast from the book — Rip's Big Bowl. This is the original recipe from Rip Esselstyn that inspired his Engine 2 Rip's Big Bowl boxed cereal. To make it at home, you just need oats, some Grape Nut-esque cereal (I used Ezekiel almond cereal), unsweetened shredded wheat, and some other fun add-ins. You can add any fruit you want, but Rip recommends grapefruit, kiwi, and banana. I thought grapefruit sounded like a weird addition to cereal, but I tried it, and it was really great! This meal is surprisingly VERY filling.

Co-author and vegan bodybuilding legend Robert Cheeke's recipes are among the simplest ones in the recipe section, so I gravitated toward those first! I love simple. Matt Frazier had mentioned on several podcasts that Robert's Curried Chickpeas was his favorite recipe from the book, so I tried that! And I agree! So far, it's my fave too. You can't go wrong with Indian-spiced potatoes with chickpeas, tomatoes, and spinach. I added hing for that special flavor too!

I made Robert's Summer Pasta Salad last weekend. Robert says this is his favorite recipe from the book, so of course I wanted to try that as well! This was so light and refreshing. It has red lentil pasta for protein, plus black olives, artichokes, tomatoes, and spinach. I've been eating it for days, and I'm not tired of it yet.

And finally, here's Robert's Bodybuilding Burrito Bowl. This is the simplest-ever dish that's just pinto and black beans, brown rice, and salad-y toppings. The pepperoncinis made this really stand out!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Cookbook Review: Vegan Cookbook for Teens

My friend Barb over at That Was Vegan is cranking out books like nobody's business! Her new cookbook, Vegan Cookbook for Teens, features 100 easy and nutritious plant-based recipes. Now I don't have kids, but I've always said that I'm 14 years old at heart. I'll never grow up! 

There's a whole chapter on meals for one, and I'm typically cooking for just me since Paul and I don't share meal times (and he doesn't eat the same kind of food I do anyway). I sometimes enjoy making a big pot of something that feeds me for days, but I also tend to tire of eating the same things every day. So a single-serve meal is often just what I need! There's a recipe for one-serving of baked buffalo tofu wings and one for single-serve flatbread pizzas. 

But if your teen is heading to a potluck or party, Barb has them covered there too. The chapter of "meals for many" features larger dishes that feed several people. Think baked chimichangas and banh mi-inspired veggie dogs. 

All of the recipes are simple with only a few, easy-to-find ingredients, making this ideal for a freshman college kid with a limited budget. 

I tried three recipes from the book. First up, Ultimate Vegan Nachos! These nachos have a vegan cheese sauce, chili beans, onion, tomatoes, smashed avocado. There's a recipe in the book for a whole food-style cheese sauce with a potato base, but I cheated and bought the Simple Truth Plant-Based Queso because it's the greatest! I loved how quickly this came together, and it satisfied my serious nacho cravings.

Next up, Buffalo Chickpea Wrap. Chickpeas are coated in buffalo sauce and wrapped up with avocado, lettuce, and carrots. That's it! One can of chickpeas made two wraps, so this was a perfect week day lunch a couple days last week.

Y'all know I'm a ramen lover, so I had to try the Leveled Up Ramen. For this, you toss the seasoning packet and make your own flavorful hoisin-spiced broth. It called for mixed frozen veggies, so you can really go with whatever you want here. I opted for a mix of carrots, peas, corn, and green beans, plus some frozen broccoli cuts. That broth was PERFECTION and so simple.

Other dishes on my list: Eggy Muffin Sandwiches, "Cheesy" Bacon & Green Bean Casserole, and Spicy Hawaiian-Spiced Chickpea Burgers. There are even simple small-batch desserts, like Chocolate Mug Cakes and Strawberry Milkshakes. 

Whether you're a teen or a 40-something with a partner who doesn't eat with you because he doesn't like veggies (ha!), you'll find plenty of use from this awesome book!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Wraps, Bowls, & Chips & Dips!

Here are a few things I've been eating lately! I bought some burrito-sized tortillas recently, and I can't stop making wraps! Maybe it's the heat, but I want to eat everything as a wrap these days. This one has grilled tofu, pickled red onions, lettuce, grilled squash, and tahini-garlic sauce.

Here's a rando bowl. I got a lot of squash in my CSA, so I sauteed some with some fresh chard that my neighbor Dennis gifted me and topped with marinated, air-fried tofu and Trader Joe's sriracha garlic BBQ sauce. I can't remember what grain was on the bottom, but it was either brown rice or quinoa.

I had some toor dal that needed using, so I made some Indian-spiced dal with lots of hing (my current obsession — it makes everything taste like Indian food!). I added some more of that chard from my neighbor.

And here's a party plate! My friends Melissa and Anthony recently invited some friends over for a pool party! I'm so glad parties are back! We all brought little snacks to share. I made the famous Tik Tok feta pasta (with vegan with tofu feta), and Jennifer brought a yummy black-eyed pea salad. Melissa made a tasty onion dip, and Megan made homemade hummus. 

Here's a close-up of the Tik Tok pasta! It was good! I think next time, I'll use Violife instead of healthy tofu feta, but it was still tasty. Here's the recipe I used from 80/20 Plants. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Product Review: Delta 8 Living & CBD Living!

I'm a big believer in the power of CBD for sleep, minor aches and pains, anxiety, pretty much anything! And CBD Living makes lots of vegan products, like gummies, tinctures, and even CBD water. I've reviewed their all-purpose CBD gummies before, and you can read that here. But they've recently released a new line of vegan Delta 8 THC products, and they shipped me lots to review! I'll also be reviewing their new vegan CBD Sleep gummies in this post.

The Delta 8 Living line includes vapes, shots, a freeze roll-on, and gummies. Vaping isn't my thing (hey, no shade if it's your thing though), but they did send me a selection of shots, gummies, and the freeze. If you're not familiar with Delta 8 THC, it's a psychoactive cannabinoid that's currently legal and has a much milder effect than Delta-9 THC (the kind of THC from marijuana). Delta-8 is hemp-derived, and it's been said to help with anxiety, pain, and most importantly for me, workout recovery. I was excited to put these products to the test!

They sent me lots of Delta Living Shot flavors to try. This is a liquid form of Delta 8, and the bottle has measurements on the side for every 10 mg. The entire bottle contains 100 mg, so that's ten servings. I've learned that a standard shot glass holds about 10 mg, which is a nice, moderate dose that produces a very mild psychoactive effect. I've enjoyed doing a shot after work most days to relax, and it's a nice alternative to alcohol. My favorite has been the Arnie (ice tea and lemonade flavor). 

The shots come in large sizes and mini sizes. The minis have 30 mg, which could work as one or two shots, depending on your preference. That might even be three shots for me!

The Delta Living Gummies are 25 mg each, and they're totally vegan. I've found that eating a half of a gummy works best for me. Not only are these great for relaxing after work, they're also awesome for post-run. I save them for enjoying after weekend runs since I need to focus at work, but I notice a quicker muscle recovery when I take Delta 8 or CBD products following a run.

The Delta Living Freeze has been a lifesaver during my 50K training! This isn't ingestible but rather it's designed to be rolled onto sore muscles for relief. It's a cold freeze, so it provides immediate relief after my long runs. On Saturday, I used some after a 12-mile run, and then I put on compression socks. The cold therapy worked for about an hour, and I left the socks on for six or so hours. The next day, Sunday, I went out for another 12-mile run, and my legs felt fresh and totally recovered!

In addition to new Delta Living products, CBD Living has also introduced new vegan CBD Sleep gummies! These do not contain Delta 8, but they do have a combo of CBD and melatonin, which is the perfect prescription for a great night's sleep. I've blogged quite a bit about how I have a hard time staying asleep, but when I take these sleep gummies, I have no issues sleeping through the night. And they give me some pretty amazing and vivid dreams, thanks I'm sure to the melatonin, which is known for its affect on dreams.

Delta 8 isn't for everyone, so I'd only recommend taking Delta 8 products if you're comfortable with a mild psychoactive effect. But the CBD gummies would be good for anyone, so long as vivid dreams don't bother you! 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Vegan Food & Crystals in Central Arkansas!

My best friend Sheridan and her partner Drew are both teachers, and they're off for the summer. So I decided to take last Friday off and drive down to Little Rock to hang out! They had recently posted about digging for crystals at Ron Coleman Mining in Jesseville, Arkansas (about an hour from Little Rock), and I wanted to check that out!

I drove down Friday afternoon and arrived in time for some pre-dinner beers in their wading pool. Then we headed downtown to Ester's Pub. Ester's is a mostly vegan restaurant that makes their own vegan meats. They also serve meat from animals, but the focus is on vegan food so the main menu is all vegan! I'd been there once before after the LR Marathon in 2020 (pre-pandemic), so I was excited to eat there again! 

I got the Land Yacht Burrito, which is a Frito chili pie burrito with quinoa-bean chili, vegan dill sauce, and vegan cheddar.

Very substantial! I also got a Side Salad with Dill Sauce. Best side salad ever! I feel like vegan side salads are typically an afterthought and are mostly greens, and they often have icky bitter greens like arugula. But this was straight-up romaine (no weird mixed greens!) with vegan cheese, tomato, mushrooms, and onion. Perfect!

We also got a Basket of Fries to share. Ester's has the best fries! They're breaded with some kind of seasoned coating, so they're extra crispy.

When we got back to Sheridan and Drew's house, Sheridan cut up some Vegan Rice Krispie Treats that she made us for dessert. These were awesome! I loved the sprinkles!

On Saturday morning, I got up super early (5 am!) and ran 12 miles before we started our day. And then our friend Brittany came over and we packed up the car for the hour road trip. Our first stop was Lake Ouachita State Park for a picnic. Sheridan and I have been best friends since 8th grade, and Brittany and I go back to 2nd grade!

Sheridan packed us Vegan Ham & Cheese Sandwiches on kalamata olive bread, Kite Hill Vegan Onion Dip with Chips, pickles, and fresh watermelon. It's so awesome having a best friend for life who also happens to be vegan!

After lunch, we headed to Ron Coleman Mining in Jesseville. This is an active quartz mine, and they allow the public to pay $25 a person to come and dig for their own crystals. You can take home as you can haul out!

I left with a very heavy bucket full of quartz! It all needs a good cleaning since it's packed into red dirt, but you can get some pretty amazing pieces. I even found two nice crystal points!

After our dig, we headed back to Little Rock. And then I hit up the Whole Foods across from Sheridan's house for car snacks for my drive back to Memphis (about two hours). I was craving veggies, but I needed something that I could easily eat while driving. So I put together this weird mix of finger-friendly veggies and tofu from the Whole Foods salad bar!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Plant-Based Athlete!

Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a No Meat Athlete super-fan. I credit NMA podcast hosts Matt Frazier and Doug Hay for inspiring me to dream beyond the marathon and to move from roads to trails. I didn't know ultramarathons were even a thing before I started listening to their podcast. NMA also helped me find a healthy balance between vegan junk food and vegan whole foods. In short, their work has been life-changing for me.

So of course I was stoked when The Plant-Based Athlete, by No Meat Athlete founder Matt Frazier and vegan bodybuilding legend Robert Cheeke, came out in mid-June! It's quickly become my official manual for how to be a vegan athlete! And by "athlete," I'm talking about everyday athletes. Although the authors interviewed 60-plus elite and professional plant-based athletes for the book, the practical advice offered is intended to help aspiring young athletes and older weekend warriors like myself. 

I'm currently training for two 50K races and a marathon this fall, and I've got one solo 50K, four full marathons, and numerous half-marathons under my belt. I practice yoga daily, and I strength-train a couple times a week. But I'm not out there winning races (or even age group awards). I'm a slow runner, but I still consider myself an athlete, and this book is loaded with practical advice (and recipes!) that are already helping me make the most of my training.

Matt and Robert take a deep dive into macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) and supplementation, and then they provide meal plans for various athletic goals, such as fat-burning or muscle-building. I love that they not only tell you how to eat, but they offer guidance on what to eat for optional workout fueling. The section on recovery is fantastic with suggestions on the best plant-based foods to reduce inflammation, and they break down carb-to-protein ratios for snacks/meals eaten before, during, and after your workouts.

There's even a "day in the life" section where some of those athletes detail everything they eat in a typical day (including their pre- and post-workout meals). It's so cool to see how much those individual meal plans vary from athlete to athlete! It really does prove that every body is different!

My very favorite section of the book is at the end — the recipes! There are more than 60 plant-based recipes, contributed by the athletes featured in the book. So far, I've tried quite a few, starting with the Kale Yeah Caesar Salad from marathoner Mary Schneider. This has roasted chickpeas, nooch, hempseeds, and a tasty caper-y avo dressing! Perfect lunch!

I also made ultramarathoner (and Vega founder) Brenden Brazier's Chia Seed Maple Blueberry Pudding. This was a standard chia pudding and made for a nice breakfast on a hot summer morning. I loved the crunchy slivered almonds.

Mountain biker Sonya Looney's Champ Oatmeal is a classic! Steel cut oats with flax, blueberries, and hemp seeds. Can't go wrong with that, and those are items I always have in my pantry.

Triathlete (and Engine 2 guru) Rip Esselstyn's Rip's Big Bowl makes a VERY filling breakfast! This has unsweetened shredded wheat, rolled oats, Ezekiel cereal, walnuts, raisins, flax, grapefruit, kiwi, and banana. It also called for Uncle Sam's cereal, but I couldn't find that. That was okay though because I could barely finish this bowl as it was. It's absolutely delicious, but one serving is very, very filling!

My favorite breakfast was bodybuilder Korin Sutton's Vegan Omelet! This uses Just Egg for the omelet base, and it's stuffed with peppers, kale, onions, shiitakes, and Field Roast sausages. I appreciate that the book includes mostly whole plant recipes with a few indulgent things (like plant meat and Just Egg) thrown in. It's nice to know that even pro athletes eat processed foods sometimes!

Last night, I made Robert Cheeke's Curried Chickpeas for dinner. I'd heard co-author Matt say in an interview that this was his favorite recipe from the book, so I had to try it. And I think I agree! So far, the omelet and these chickpeas are tied for my fave. The combo of potatoes, chickpeas, curry powder, tomatoes, and spinach is just perfect.

Later this week, I'm trying Robert Cheeke's Bodybuilding Burrito Bowl, and I've got Matt's Raw Frozen Banana Truffles bookmarked too! I've long had a goal of making every recipe from Matt's No Meat Athlete Cookbook (I'm about three-fourths of the way there!), and I plan to make every recipe from The Plant-Based Athlete as well.

I finished reading this book this week, and I cannot recommend it enough! If you consider yourself a vegan athlete (or know someone who does), get this book!