Thursday, May 27, 2021

Greg's Visit, Part 2: Kayaking, Vegan Reuben, Drag Show, & Brunch!

Yesterday, I blogged about my best friend Greg's visit to Memphis last weekend. He lived in Memphis for years, and we met when we were just babies (at age 24! Now we're 40!). But Greg moved to Kentucky a few years ago, and now we see each other once or twice a year. He spent last Wednesday through this past Tuesday at my house, and we had tons of fun. In yesterday's post, I recapped Wednesday through Thursday, and this post will recap Friday and Saturday.

On Saturday morning, we'd considered going to the Bluff City Fair, but we read bad reviews online, so we changed plans and decided to go kayaking at Shelby Farms. Greg had never kayaked, and I knew he'd love it! Shelby Farms rents kayaks by the hour, so we spent an hour floating around Patriot Lake. It was probably our favorite thing of the whole visit!

We worked up an appetite on the water, so we went to Imagine Vegan Cafe for takeout afterward. I got the Vegan Reuben with deli meat, their house-made cheese sauce, and kraut. It's always one of my faves!

And a side of Broccoli with Vegan Cheese!

Later that night, Paul, Greg, and I met up with lots of friends at Dru's Place for a drag show. We had also caught a Thursday drag show, but this one was more fun because we had seats next to the stage (and all our friends came out!).

The next day, we had brunch plans with Vaughan and Nicole. I've been friends with Vaughan almost as long as I have Greg, so they've known each other for a very long time, and Nicole has known Greg for at least a decade. They invited us over for a lovely brunch!

Nicole made Just Egg vegan omelets, tofu scramble, Beyond sausages, and avocado toast, and I brought some Diner Home Fries from Isa's Vegan Brunch cookbook and some mini pancakes. Nicole made us all the BEST ginger-lime margaritas. What a perfect ending to the weekend!

Greg stayed a couple more days, but I don't have pics from the rest of the stay since I had to go back to work, and we didn't do as much Monday and Tuesday. I miss him already! I've got to plan a trip to Kentucky soon!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Greg's Visit, Part 1: Tofu, Hiking, Sliders, & Cemetery Picnics

My best friend Greg (not to be confused with my BFF Sheridan ... I have two best friends!) moved to Kentucky several years ago, and we typically see each other at least once (maybe twice) a year. But his last visit to Memphis was NYE 2020, and then a pandemic happened. Now that we're both vaccinated, Greg planned his vacation time around a trip to Memphis.

He arrived Wednesday night, and we immediately made a trip to Pho Binh for takeout tofus! Pho Binh was our fave buffet spot back in the day when buffets were still a thing. For now, Pho Binh is only doing takeout, so we made our own mini buffet with Lemongrass Tofu and Green Bean Tofu (the two best things on the menu).

After dinner, Paul, Greg, and I went to the new HiTone, which a couple blocks from the old HiTone, which are both a couple blocks from my house. The HiTone moved during the pandemic, so this was my first time there. It's a nice space!

The next day — Thursday — I took off work, and we went hiking! Greg was never outdoorsy before he moved, but he's since discovered hiking, and I couldn't be more thrilled. I'd rather be on a trail than just about anywhere else. We went to the Woodland Trail at Meeman Shelby. It's a three-mile loop, and I've run it often, but it took us much longer to hike.

We went to Slider Inn Downtown for dinner that night after Paul got off work. I got the mix and match sliders with two Vegan Triple B burgers (beets, black bean, brown rice) with vegan smoked Gouda and one Falafel Slider. Plus, fries with their vegan ranch!

Later, we eavesdropped on a Tank & the Bangas concert at the Levitt Shell. Tickets were $270-$400 (!!!), so we just found a nice spot in Overton Park to listen for free! And then we went to Dru's Place for a Thirsty Thursdays drag show. It's fun to be out in the world again!!

On Friday, Greg and I did a little shopping (Sprouts, Whole Foods, Target), and then we got takeout from New Hong Kong on Quince. They have a great vegan mock meat menu! I got the Special Fried Rice, which has mock ham, mock chicken, and mock beef.

We enjoyed our meal at Memorial Park Cemetery so that, afterward, we could explore the Crystal Shrine Grotto. This awesome crystal cave was built in the 1930s, and it's just magical. One of my favorite places in Memphis!

Later that night, after Paul got off work, we took Greg to Grind City Brewing, which has opened since his last visit. Best view of downtown! In the background, you can see our broken M bridge (currently closed to traffic because they found a CRACK IN THE BRIDGE! Terrifying since that's how I drive to Arkansas to see my parents). Then we went home and built a bonfire! Such a fun couple of days! I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of Saturday and Sunday of Greg's visit.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Go Get This Sandwich at The Backlot!

If you live in Memphis (or within driving distance), you NEED to go to The Backlot Sandwich Shop and TRY THIS SANDWICH. The Backlot is a new downtown sandwich shop, and they have a Vegan Red Reuben special going on today through the week (while supplies last), and it's the best thing ever.

I drove downtown for my lunch break today to try this. My friend Greg was heading out after lunch, so we had this one final meal together before he hit the road back to Kentucky. The vegan reuben has smoked and roasted celeriac root standing in for the corned beef, and it just blew my mind. I'd never had celeriac root before! It takes on the whatever flavor you season it with, and it really tastes like corned beef!

The sandwich also has vegan Swiss and vegan aioli, plus Backlot's house-made red cabbage kraut. Greg and I both really enjoyed this sandwich (and Greg normally doesn't even like kraut!).

The reuben is available for a limited time, but if it sells well, they may add this to the regular menu. So let's go support vegan options and make that happen! The Backlot is located at 265 S Front (entrance on MLK). 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Spinach Pie, Veggie Panini, & Savory Scones!

Sorry for the lack of posts last week! My friend Greg came to Memphis for a week-long stay, and we've just been having non-stop fun. But I'm going to catch up on posts this week. Here's one I planned to post last Thursday but just never finished writing.

A couple Saturdays ago, I went to the Cooper Young Farmer's Market for my usual LuLu's treats (which I got), but I also brought home something special —  Vegan Spinach Pie from Memphis Baklava! I pass the Memphis Baklava stand every week, and I've noticed they have several vegan items, but I've just never tried any until now. This Spinach Pie was fantastic! I love anything with phyllo dough. 

I enjoyed my spinach pie with a big salad with the last of my Violife feta and chunks of plain tofu. I love plain tofu on salads. I also had some dolmas on the side.

I also picked up a Savory Loaded Scone at LuLu's booth. This has sweet potato, chard, and cashew cheese. It was SO GOOD. A perfect Saturday afternoon snack.

One day last week (before Greg arrived), I was working at Crosstown Concourse (I've been going into the office occasionally) around lunch time. I decided to grab lunch there and work through lunch since I was cramming a bunch of work in before Greg arrived. I went with the Vegan Panini from Pizzeria Trasimeno. They make their pesto with nooch, and it's loaded with roasted veggies on the softest, most delicious homemade focaccia bread.

And finally, here's some Avo Toast with Tofu. This has been my favorite breakfast lately!

Monday, May 17, 2021

Nuggets, Tamales, & Pasta Salad

One day last week, my friend Susan dropped off a surprise at my door and texted me to freeze it asap. I wasn't home, so I texted Paul and asked him to put whatever it was in the freezer. When I got home, I was elated to see she'd packaged up four Nuggs for me to try. These new meaty vegan nuggets used to only be available online, but now they're sold at Target and Walmart. She'd picked some up and left some for me to try. I also had some Morningstar Farms vegan nuggets in the freezer, so I decided to do a taste test.

I cooked both in the air fryer, along with some sweet potato fries, for 10 minutes on 350. That was perfect for the Morningstar nuggets, but the Nuggs were a little overcooked. Still tasty though! They were just crunchier on the outside. On the inside, the Nuggs definitely had that stringy chicken texture, and they tasted the way I remember chicken tasting. The Morningstar ones taste more like vegan meat, but I love them as well. My only complaint with Nuggs is the size. They're very tiny!

I've been on a nugget thing lately, and I used some of those Morningstar ones to make a vegan Fried Chicken Salad one day. Very tasty!

I am very loosely working on a vegan fitness cookbook that may never really see the light of day, but every once in a while, I get inspired to create something for that. Last week, I made these Tofu & Mushroom Enchiladas

They have a homemade enchilada sauce, and the tortillas are enchiladas stuffed with seasoned tofu and sauteed mushrooms. They were REALLY good! I had some slow-cooked local collards with carrot on the side.

And finally, here's some Hummus Tofu Pasta Salad from the Cheap Lazy Vegan's e-book. For this, you make a homemade hummus that's oil- and tahini-free but has added tofu for protein. That hummus makes the dressing for this pasta salad with bell pepper, celery, scallion, and snap peas.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Burgers, Fries, Sammiches, & Tacos!

Last Saturday, Paul texted me a few hours before he was to get off work to ask if I wanted to go out to eat that night. I'm a meal planner, and I typically plan what days I'm eating out. But he's spontaneous, so I've learned to expect that sort of thing from him. I had planned to make some vegan nuggets and fries, but I ran nine miles that morning and a big, indulgent restaurant meal sounded better. We ended up going to Belly Acres, a fast-casual burger joint in Overton Square with four different veggie burger options.

I hadn't been to Belly Acres since shortly after they'd opened years ago, so I was glad to be able to order the Blackeyed Pea Burger again. It comes topped with pickled collards and a roasted sweet potato slice. I asked them to sub the aioli that comes on the burger for their jalapeno jelly. Excellent choice! I love savory/sweet combos.

We split a basket of fries as well. This was only our fifth or six time dining inside a restaurant during the pandemic, and now that we're vaccinated, it felt so much safer. I am so grateful for vaccination!

A couple week back, after a 12-mile run on the trails at Shelby Farms, I stopped by Whole Foods on my drive home and picked up a Tempeh TLT from their deli case. Paul and I had plans a couple hours later, and I knew I wouldn't have time for a proper post-workout meal at home. So I ate this tasty sandwich in the car. It had a super garlicky vegan aioli that was excellent!

And finally, here are some Breakfast Tofu Tacos from a last Monday's breakfast. I made Cheap Lazy Vegan's mug scrambled tofu (cooked in the microwave!) and added it to some tacos with vegan sour cream and vegan cheddar. I wish I had time to eat tacos for breakfast every day, but on most days, I only have time for a smoothie.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cinco de Mayo Eats & More!

Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite holidays! I love how Americans will find any reason to create a drinking holiday, even when that day is not really celebrated in the country we're supposed to be celebrating! Global Café at Crosstown Concourse had a Cinco special of tacos with $2.95 margaritas. I go there often for Taco Tuesday because their general manger/cocktail genius Juan makes the greatest marg. They're extra-strong so all you need is one! I lovingly call them "Juanaritas"! Please note my taco Goodr sunglasses and Cinco shirt. I'm all in!! I also had avocado earrings!

I ordered the Black Bean Tacos too! These have black beans, tomatillo salsa, and red onions. They're best black bean tacos I've ever had. I order these often! 

Paul isn't a fan of tacos (because he is crazy), so he ordered the Black Bean Empanadas. But they ended up giving him some bonus chicken empanadas because they ran out of chips and salsa, and he REALLY wanted chips and salsa. So he ended up with leftover black bean empanadas, which I heated in the air fryer the next day for lunch. They're so tasty with Global's homemade habanero-garlic salsa!

In keeping with the Mexican theme, I had Pinto Bean Tamales for lunch one day last week. My mom bought a bunch of vegan tamales from a local tamale-maker a while back, and I stashed them in my freezer. They're so good with the vegan cheese, hot sauce, avocado, and guacamole salsa.

And here's a Mexican Black Rice Bowl. I got some black rice in my CSA, so I used that as a base for a bowl with black beans, zucchini, carrots, kale, avocado, scallion, and guacamole salsa. My favorite at-home meals are just bowls with rice, beans, and veggies!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Mother's Day + Mama's Birthday!

My mama turned 67 years old on May 4! She won't mind me telling you her age because she looks amazing (and she knows it!). Since her birthday fell mid-week this year, we decided to combine birthday and Mother's Day into one celebration!

Paul and I went to Arkansas on Sunday to celebrate, and when we arrived, my dad had a build-your-own nacho bar all set up. They had vegan and non-vegan toppings, but of course I made a big ole plate of Vegan Nachos! My dad roasts the nachos in the oven for maximum cheese meltiness. Mine have vegan beef, Daiya, black beans, tomatoes, jalapenos, black olives, corn, onion, Tofutti sour cream, and my dad's fantastic homemade guac and salsa. I forgot the salsa for this pic, but I added some later.

My daddy also made his Refried Pinto Beans and Spanish Rice. Both were perfect! I need to get his rice recipe because it was perfectly textured.

For dessert, my mama made our favorite Peanut Butter Pie. She usually makes this vegan and keto, but this time, she just went vegan and used real sugar. The keto version is good, but this was much better! You can't beat real sugar. It has a peanut butter cream cheese base, and it's so delicious.

I got her some new hand weights for home workouts and some microwavable bowl warmers (life-changing gadget!) for her birthday, and for Mother's Day, I got her a bottle of merlot from a winery we visited in Chattanooga and some Memphis-made, all-natural margarita mix. Paul got her a giant bottle of tequila, so she's stocked on booze for awhile. Here we are in a Mother's Day pic! I think I've worn this "Bacon Had a Mom" shirt every Mother's Day for a decade!

I love my mama!!! She the kindest, most dependable, most affable woman I know, and she's a lot of fun! She loves live music, cowboy boots, dancing, and riding motorcycles with my dad. She's an amazing cook, a talented interior painter, and she's the kind of person who can do a million things and make it look easy. Love you, Mama!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Korean Food, Modern Love, Brave Robot, & PARTY FOOD!

I've been a little obsessed with Cheap Lazy Vegan e-books lately, mostly because the recipes are super-simple and don't call for too many ingredients. But also because there are a lot of Korean dishes in the book, and I LOVE Korean food. I recently made the Spicy Korean Udon Stir-fry, and it was so tasty. It has a base of udon noodles, which I love because they're so fat and chewy. The tofu is baked plain with no marinade, but you add it to the stir-fried veggies (bell pepper, baby corn, broccoli) and sauce (with a base of gochujang and garlic!), and you can't even tell the tofu was ever plain.

I also made the Savory Korean Scallion Pancakes for dinner one night because I got a ton of scallions in my CSA. These have a gochujang-based dipping sauce that I could drink on its own. And eating with chopsticks is fun!

I've also been loving the Modern Love Cookzine, which I ordered at the start of the pandemic as a fundraiser to help Isa's Modern Love restaurants stay afloat in tough times. I recently made the Noochy Tofu, Mac & Shews, and the Garlicky Broccoli in Tomato Vinaigrette. 

Mac & Shews (as in cashews) is what Modern Love is probably best-known for. I've never been, but the Brooklyn location is on my bucket list! This isn't the exact recipe from the restaurant, but Isa says it's an easy make-at-home version. It has a cashew and roasted red pepper base. The tofu is just coated with tamari and nooch before baking, and the broccoli is seared and covered in a really yummy fresh tomato/garlic vinaigrette. I've been using the leftover vinaigrette on salads.

Have y'all tried Brave Robot yet? I read about it in VegNews and then found it on sale at Kroger. It's a new vegan ice cream that's made with a base of non-animal whey protein (basically, lab-grown milk protein). They create the protein in a way that doesn't even require an animal! They just insert "a cow’s DNA sequence as a blueprint into yeast-based microflora," according to VegNews. WHOA! I love science food, so I was excited to try this! 

My thoughts: It's good. It's creamy. It reminds me of dairy ice cream, which I haven't had in 17 years, so I really don't remember it that well. But honestly, I think I prefer the taste and texture of oatmilk ice cream. I'd buy this again, but oat is my fave. Note: This is not appropriate for lactose-intolerant people because the synthetic milk protein contains lactose.

And finally, look at this party food! Parties are back! My friend Jen celebrated her birthday last weekend with a small outdoor gathering, and she made lots of snacks. My friends and I gathered outdoors a few times during the pandemic, but now that we're all vaccinated, this felt so much safer! Jen's Mexican Layer Dip and Onion Dip were my faves!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Sammies, Spaghetti, & Soup!

Memphis has a new sandwich shop, The Backlot Sandwich Shop, and they're working on some exciting vegan specials (a reuben made with roasted celeriac root!), but their regular menu features a pretty awesome veggie sandwich. The Mother Earth has marinated portabella with tomato and cucumber. It typically has a non-vegan aioli, but they can leave that off (ask them to sub with red wine vinegar, trust me!). Portabella sandwiches don't usually excite me, but this one is very well done. The marinade is fantastic! I recommend the Zapp's Voodoo Chips on the side. 

I had a little Just Egg leftover from camping, so I used it up in this Just Egg & Avocado Breakfast Sandwich. So good! I love Just Egg so much!

Last Friday, Paul and I made Spaghetti with Mushrooms, our favorite meal to cook together. Paul makes the mushrooms, and I handle the rest. He adds lots of spicy stuff to them!

Here's a quick Roasted Sweet Potato with Chili & Vegan Cheese. I had some leftover chili in the freezer, so this came together super-fast. I made Sauteed Swiss Chard on the side using some from my CSA.

And here's a quick lunch of Garden Sausage Minestrone & Grilled Cheese. Have y'all tried the Gardein canned soups? They're so good! I wish they were a little meatier though. The whole can had maybe six pieces of vegan sausage.