Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Bowls and Bowls and Bowls!

Here are a few bowls I've been eating lately! Last night, I had this Fried Rice Bowl with brown rice, marinated and airfried tofu, Just Egg, summer squash, shiitake mushrooms, corn, peas, carrots, and spinach. It's almost grocery time, and I had a lot of odds and ends that needed using. My mom made some really awesome fried rice for Father's Day, so I called to get her secret. She sautes cold rice in Earth Balance and olive or sesame oil. I'd never thought to use Earth Balance, but it made it so much better.

Here's a random Burrito Bowl with brown rice, kidney beans, sauteed kale, diced tomato from my garden, and fresh salsa. Also, notice Ozzy peeping on the neighbors out of the window!

And here's a very brown (but yummy!!) bowl with brown rice, roasted turnips (from my CSA), chard (from my neighbor's garden), cannellini beans, and a tahini-miso sauce. For the sauce, I just whisked together tahini, Lulu's homemade miso, a little nooch, soy sauce, and sriracha. Perfection!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Celebrating 17 Years with Paul!

Monday, June 28 was mine and Paul's 17-year anniversary! Hard to believe it's been that long, and that number makes me feel really old. But hey, time flies when you're having fun. We decided to celebrate on Sunday the 27th since we were both off work. We typically do anniversary dinner at one of a couple places, followed by drinks and pool at Newby's (the bar we met at in 2004). This year, we returned to one of our favorite date night restaurants — Seasons 52. Sure, it's a chain, but they offer a vegan menu, and it's much fancier than our usual ramen takeout.

Seasons 52 is great about adding special touches for special occasions. When we told our server it was our anniversary, she asked if we wanted a complimentary champagne toast. Of course we did!

I started with the Field Greens Salad, which is topped with a fantastic, crunchy almond granola.

And for my main, I went with the Brick Oven Vegetable Gnocchi. Gnocchi was actually the vegan special on our last anniversary date at Seasons 52 in 2019, but they changed up the veggies and sauce. This was more of a ratatouille-inspired gnocchi. Really yummy! I love gnocchi!

After dinner, they brought us an anniversary card and a rose! And Paul was offered free dessert. Actually, we were both offered free dessert, but their dessert cups aren't vegan, so Paul got two desserts.

Next, we went to Newby's for a game of pool and some beers. Paul and I met at Newby's over a game of pool on beer bust night way back in 2004 (when I was just 23 and he was 24!). We always get a pic of us holding the balls that represent the anniversary year.

On Monday night (our actual anniversary), we both got home around 7 pm. Paul worked until then, and I had a gym class that ended around that time. We changed into jammies and had a late candlelight dinner of Spaghetti with Mushrooms and some overpriced chardonnay we'd been saving for a special occasion.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Plant Based Heat!

Y'all, Memphis has a NEW BLACK-OWNED VEGAN RESTAURANT! For the longest time, Imagine Vegan Cafe and Raw Girls were the only fully vegan restaurants in town. Both amazing! Love them so much! Plus, we have Da Guilty Vegan food truck (also Black-owned), and we have lots of non-vegan places that serve vegan options (see my Memphis vegan dining guide). But it's nice to have another totally vegan brick-and-mortar restaurant. It's called Plant Based Heat, and it just opened at 669 S. Highland, near the University of Memphis.

Plant Based Heat has been open for a week, and my friend Susan and I finally got a chance to try them on Saturday! The menu features burgers, phillys, chick'n sammys, wings, and more. They use some plant meats, like Beyond burgers, but they also have sandwiches that feature more whole food options, like a pecan meat philly and BBQ jackfruit and cauli wings. On Saturday morning, I ran 16 miles, and I wanted a very protein-heavy dinner, so I ordered the Fye Junt burger.

This is a hickory-smoked Beyond patty topped with jalapenos, vegan cheese, spicy BBQ sauce, and spicy mayo. The perfect level of heat! Don't worry spice-aphobes: They have a classic style burger without all the hot stuff too.

On the side, I opted for Sweet Potato Tots. They also have seasoned fries, but I figured I'd get a tad more nutrition with sweet potatoes. And tots are the best!

Susan ordered the Oyster Mushroom Basket with fries. You can get these regular-style (like Susan did) or buffalo-style (which is what I would do!). I didn't try any of hers because I didn't want to steal her food, but I was tempted! She said they were great!

Plant Based Heat is run by chef Ralph Johnson, and he did pop-ups around Memphis and Atlanta before opening his own place. I went to one pop-up on Beale Street over the summer and had the best damn vegan funnel cake. I'm so glad he took the leap and opened a restaurant, and I can't wait to go back and try the whole menu. The space is small, but it has a few tables for indoor dining. I love the decor!

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Pesto Pasta, Burrito Bowls, & Salads!

I'm growing basil in my garden, and I had quite a bit that needed to be used last week, so I made the Vegan Basil Pesto from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook and served it over whole wheat pasta with a slice of LuLu's sourdough! Perfect Friday night pre-long run carb-loading meal! The pesto is made with basil, spinach, brazil nuts, pine nuts, and roasted almonds. The spinach helps keep the basil bright green for days!

One day last week, I threw together this quick Burrito Bowl for lunch since I had leftover black beans and rice in the fridge. I added vegan cheddar shreds, chopped bell pepper, lettuce, salsa, mashed avocado, and Tofutti sour cream. Total thrown-together meal, and it was a big success! Even Maynard was licking his lips!

I got some assorted wild mushrooms (lion's mane, shiitake, oyster) from Bluff City Fungi and summer squash in my CSA, so last night, I whipped up a quick Tofu Stir-fry with air-fried tofu, garlic, squash, mushrooms, and a soy-tahini sauce. Served over brown rice.

On Wednesday, I had a work lunch (yes, work lunches are back!) with a couple co-workers and some folks from one of our partner organizations at Pizzeria Trasimeno at Crosstown Concourse. They have great vegan pizza and vegan paninis, but I've been on a salad-for-lunch kick lately, so I opted for their House Salad (which naturally comes without cheese!) and a side of focaccia. 

Speaking of salads, here's another one! I got some mixed greens in my CSA, so I made a lunch salad on Monday with every veggie I had in the fridge, some homemade sesame-lemon-coriander dressing, and air-fried roasted chickpeas (seasoned with my dad's signature spice blend)!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Tofu Wings, Jameson Slushees, & More!

At the beginning of 2021, I started a point system to track healthy habits. For every goal habit I do (running, yoga, eating the colors of the rainbow, etc.), I get one point. With every 100 points, I treat myself to a reward! My 500-point reward was a meal of Tofu & Cauliflower Wings with Vegan Ranch & Fries, plus a Jameson Slushee, from Slider Inn! Well-earned!

Backlot Sandwich Shop offered their Vegan Reuben again on special a couple weeks ago, so I had to get that! The "meat" is made with roasted and smoked celeriac root, and it's just amazing. I wish they'd add this to the regular menu!

Here's a simple meal inspired by Stephen of the Stephen Runs Vegan podcast. I know Stephen through No Meat Athlete (we're both big fans of the podcast and brand), and now I listen to his podcast too. On a recent episode, he mentioned that one of his favorite meals is beans with rice, greens, avocado, soy sauce, and hot sauce. That just sounded so good that I had to make it right away! I used cranberry beans for this.

And finally, here's an Incogmeato Burger that I had for a quick weeknight dinner. The Incogmeato burgers from Morningstar Farms are okay. Not my fave. Certainly no Beyond. But they're okay.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Summer Solstice Brinner!

Sunday was the Summer Solstice, but since it was also Father's Day, I decided to hold off on celebrating until Monday, June 21. In some traditions, the 21st is the first day of summer anyway. So yesterday (Monday), I blessed a few sunflower seeds with wishes for the coming season and threw them out into the yard for the squirrels.

For each Sabbat, I use the Llewelyn's Sabbat Almanac to plan my feast. For Litha/Summer Solstice, they recommended breakfast foods since we're celebrating the sun. I guess I could have these recipes for breakfast, but you know what's more fun than breakfast? Brinner! Breakfast for dinner! 

The recipes in this almanac are not vegan. Not even close. But I can veganize anything! There was a recipe for a Breakfast Sweetie Biscuit Sandwich that called for fried eggs and sausage and goat cheese, but I made a vegan version with a tofu egg (made with Vegg yolk), Dr. Praeger's Sunday Funday Veggie Sausage, Daiya shreds, spinach, and dandelion jelly. 

The recipe suggested a fruit jam, but I had some homemade dandelion jelly that my co-worker Dee made, so I used that! I loved the contrast of savory and sweet! The bread is an Ezekiel sprouted grain English muffin. I love the Dave's Killer ones, but they're a little small for breakfast sandwiches. These Ezekiel ones are bigger.

For dessert, I made Blueberry Mug Cake! The recipe for this wasn't vegan either, since it called for eggs. So I subbed a mixture of baking soda and vinegar for the eggs (maybe a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of vinegar ... I can't remember because I just winged it!). It turned out really great! Soft and cakey and really delightful. It was sweetened only with maple syrup, and I used whole wheat pastry flour for half the flour, so it was kinda healthy!

Happy Summer, y'all! It's my very favorite season of the year! So glad it's tank top/pool/kayaking season!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Happy Father's Day, Papa Crunk!

I went to Arkansas on Sunday to hang out with my dad for Father's Day! 

My dad is a badass biker dude with a heart of gold. He's also quite the cook! In the last decade or so, he's been experimenting in the kitchen and creating all kinds of fun new recipes, including lots of vegan ones. He ferments his own wine. He watches NASCAR. He loves skulls. And he counts his carbs. But most importantly, my dad is the best dad on the planet!! 

On Sunday, we had a lovely ALL-VEGAN Father's Day meal! My parents always make vegan food when I'm coming to visit, but typically, they'll make some meat dish on the side that my dad will eat with his partially vegan meal. But this time, we all ate vegan! My parents made General Tso's Tofu with Vegan Egg Fried Rice and Vegetable Spring Rolls.

This tofu was so good! It had a savory-sweet sauce, and it was perfect with the fluffy fried rice. My mom added Just Egg to make it eggy. The spring rolls were stuffed with cabbage and other veggies and deep fried. That's a real treat since I don't typically deep-fry at home. 

I got my daddy some 111 proof Chattanooga Whiskey that I picked up on our trip there in April. He can never have too many bottles of whiskey!

My dad sent me home with two bottles of his homemade strawberry wine (made with the last of my Granny's frozen strawberries that were in her freezer when she passed). And he sent me home with this! His very own spice blend, which he says is good on everything but poop! It really is awesome. It might even make poop taste good!

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Cookbook Review: The Spicy Plant-Based Cookbook

Y'all know I like it hot! The spicier, the better! We grow hot peppers (ghosts, trinidad scorpions, carolina reapers), and I've been known to sneak those into my cooking. So when I was offered a review copy of The Spicy Plant-Based Cookbook, I couldn't resist. This new vegan cookbook features more than 200 fiery snacks, dips, and main dishes with a spicy punch! This book has spicy recipes for sauces and spreads, breakfasts and brunch, apps and snacks, salads, soups and stews, mains, sides, and desserts and drinks.

I chose two recipes to try! Paul always orders panang curry when we eat Thai food, so I picked the Curry Seitan Stew when I saw it was made with panang curry paste. This hearty stew has seitan, panang, coconut milk, and lots of spices. They don't include a recipe for seitan, so I made my own using my fave recipe in Vegan Eats World. The spiciness comes from the storebought panang paste, which has a little heat to it.

I loved this stew! I've had tofu panang but never seitan panang, and I loved the meaty seitan with this spicy, rich sauce. Granted, this would have been a better winter recipe. It's in the 90s here, so a hearty stew isn't really what I'm craving. But I'll be making this again in the colder months for sure!

Next up, I made the Indian Tofu Palak. This is a vegan version of palak paneer, which traditionally has cheese and yogurt. Tofu stands in for the cheese, and I used homemade, unsweetened soy yogurt for the sauce. The spice comes from the curry powder, so it's not very hot. But I did use a spicy curry.

This was fantastic! The recipe didn't call for hing (asefoetida), but I added some because it's my favorite spice of the moment, and it really takes Indian dishes to the next level. The tofu "cheese" was coated in nooch and garlic while cooking, so it was very cheesy. I will definitely be making this again soon!

There are so many recipes in this book that I want to try! Cajun Tempeh Po'Boys, General Tso's Tofu, Spicy Southern Jambalaya, and Korean Style Hot Pot! There are even spicy salads, like Messy Taco Salad and Indian Red Onion Salad (Rani Pyaz). But I think my next recipe to try will have to be the Cucumber Margaritas with a cayenne pepper rim. Sounds like the perfect Southern drink!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Falafel, Bowls, & Rice Noodle Salad

One day last week, I stopped by Global Café in Crosstown Concourse for lunch before going into the office. I've been working from home some and in the office some. I got the Falafel and Hummus with a side of Tabbouleh. Global has the best falafel in Memphis, and they're soooo big! I can never eat all four at once.

I also had some tabbouleh leftover, so the next day, I made a grain/green/bean bowl with quinoa, roasted beets from the farmer's market, sauteed collards (also from the market), pintos, Hope roasted garlic cashew-almond sauce (it was on sale at Sprouts!), and that tabbouleh. This was perfect!

Here's another healthy farmer's market-inspired meal! I sauteed local Swiss chard with chickpeas and garlic and served with some LuLu's sourdough topped with mashed avocado. I love summer meals like this so much!

Here's a random, day-before-grocery-day meal. I didn't have much produce left, so I made some Birdeye's frozen steamed Black Rice & Edamame (from a bag) and served with sauteed black beans (from a can) with spinach and cauliflower (both frozen). 

And finally, here's a beautiful dish from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. This is the Vietnamese Vegetable & Rice Noodle Salad. It has brown rice noodles that are tossed with quick pickled daikon, carrots, and cucumbers and then topped with sauteed tofu, avocado-ginger dressing, cilantro, and chopped peanuts!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Vegan Product Review: Fry's Family Foods Grounds & Breakfast Links

Yesterday, I posted a review of some Fry's Family Foods and Like Meat plant meats. Both companies sent me a bunch of products to review, and I'm slowly working my way through them. Tonight, I've got a review of Fry's Family Foods Pea Protein Grounds and Breakfast Links.

Let's start with the Pea Protein Grounds. These are vegan beefy crumbles, and they're made with wheat gluten, potato starch, and pea protein. They have a little seasoning from herbs, but they're unsalted, which I was a bit surprised by. And then I realized, you know what? Animal-based hamburger grounds aren't seasoned either. The whole idea is that you can season it how you want! So I sauteed some grounds with garlic and added some Dale's steak seasoning (a very Southern liquid seasoning that's kind of like soy sauce) and added them to a homemade spaghetti sauce. Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese for my pre-race meal the night before my last half-marathon.

The texture reminds me a little of TVP. The grounds are really small, so you don't have to worry about biting into big chunks. As much as I like the taste of those Beyond crumbles, they are a bit too chunky. I really liked these smaller crumbles. 

The box makes a ton, so I had leftover crumbles to make a Hamburger Pizza with vegan mozz shreds and homemade tomato sauce on a personal crust. These would also be great in tacos or burritos.

My fave of these two products though were the Breakfast Links. These teensy little sausages are just so cute!

They're made with vegetable protein, wheat gluten, potato starch, and smoky sausage seasoning. The texture was similar to a Field Roast-style sausage rather than the ground sausage-style pressed links I've had from other companies. I really liked that! They were perfect with gluten-free oat-chickpea pancakes one Sunday morning! And yes, I had gluten sausage with gluten-free pancakes! HA!

Two more winners here from Fry's Family Foods! I really liked both! The Grounds were so versatile, and the texture of both products was spot on. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Vegan Product Review: The Big Fry Burger & Like Grilled Chick'n

As a vegan food blogger, I often get cool free products to test out and feature on the blog. Sometimes a company will send one box of something or maybe two, if I'm lucky. I'm always grateful for the opportunity to test out new vegan products! But every once in a while, the stars align, and a company sends enough food to feed an army! That's what happened with Fry's Family Foods and Like Meat, two companies with lots of vegan plant meats to choose from!

They sent me all of this!

And all of this!

I'll be reviewing these products in segments because there were just so many to try. Tonight, I'm focusing on The Big Fry Burger from Fry's Family Foods and Like Meat Like Grilled Chick'n. I used both of these for our official kick-off to grilling season a couple Sundays ago (Memorial Day weekend).

The Big Fry Burger burger is made with soy protein, onions, and lots of spices. The Fry's website claims the burger "looks, sizzles, and tastes like a ground beef burger." It has 22 grams of protein per patty! I put one of these on the grill and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes total (flipping it halfway through). Then I piled it on a bun with vegan cheddar, red onion, pickles, and lettuce. 

The taste was very beefy! It didn't have that Beyond flavor that's very distinctive to Beyond, and it wasn't as realistic as the Impossible. It was somewhere in between, and I appreciated that. I have a few friends who are weirded out by the super-meaty plant meats, and I think this one would be approachable for those kinds of people, as well as those of us who are like, "Bring on the meaty fake meat!" Would definitely buy these!

I used the Like Chick'n pieces to make some Veggie & Chick'n Kabobs. I brushed the kabobs with olive oil mixed with soy sauce and herbs before grilling. 

WOW! This stuff blew me away! It had a really nice flavor before adding the marinade (I was eating bits from the package as I made kabobs). It tasted just like how I remember chicken tasting. Granted, I haven't had chicken since 1994. These chick'n pieces would also be great on tacos or in a stir-fry. They were really nice on kabobs, but there were some smaller pieces in the box that were too small to skewer. 

Both of these products were fantastic! I love how far plant meats have come! Stay tuned for more Fry's and Like Meat reviews this week.