Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Vegan Chicken & Spaghetti!

Vegan chicken and spaghetti! But not together. Though that would be delicious too! Here are a few recent meals. I've been on a vegan chicken kick lately. Last week, I had some Fry's Family Foods Chick'n Nuggets with Annie's Rich & Creamy Vegan Mac and Kale. The Fry's nuggets are really tasty, especially crisped up in the air fryer. And that boxed vegan Annie's mac is excellent! I got the kind with bits of broccoli. I think Daiya boxed mac is still my fave, but this was good.

I also recently made the Gardein Nashville Hot Chicken with Coleslaw, Whole Wheat Biscuits (from Cookin' Crunk), and Kale. Also, some cashew ranch for dipping! This was my first time trying the Gardein Nashville hot chicken, and it was awesome! My friend Greg bought these tenders when he was visiting Memphis last month, and he accidentally left them in my fridge. Yay for me!! I'll buy him some more when I see him again.

And here's a recent Spaghetti Plate with canned mushrooms, baby spinach, marinara, and lots of nooch. I always prefer fresh mushrooms, but we keep cans in the pantry for those nights when we make pasta and forget to buy mushrooms (it happens a lot!).

Monday, November 29, 2021

Thanksgiving & Black Friday Recap!

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving! I sure did, despite the fact that Thanksgiving was a little different this year. Most years, I head to my parents' house on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and spend the night at their house. On Thursday, I get up and run, and then I'm in the kitchen helping my mom finish up the cooking.

But Paul had to have surgery on Tuesday for diverticulitis, and he was in the hospital for five days. I spent most every night there (except for Friday, more on that in a few), so I knew I'd be there Wednesday night. Also, my parents moved this year, and they're about two and a half hours from Memphis (before, they were just an hour away). So we decided to do a quick Thanksgiving lunch at my me-maw's house. She still lives in my hometown, just an hour away. My mom and me-maw did the cooking, and I just left the hospital in time to get there for a late lunch!

We had all the usual stuff my mom makes — Tofurky, my mama's amazing vegan dressin, hash brown casserole, homemade rolls, and cranberry sauce. And me-maw cooked some corn and chickpeas. My mom always makes everything vegan so I can enjoy all the dishes (but they do have turkey and some non-vegan versions of the casseroles as well). 

My parents aren't pumpkin fans (I know, it's crazy!), so our dessert is usually not very seasonal. But that's okay! This year, we had Daiya Cheesecake with Strawberry Topping, and it was delicious!

Here's my family! My mom is holding my "uncle" Gray Boy (me-maw's cat!).

After lunch, I made the drive back to Memphis and headed back to the hospital. Paul was eating some solids by then, so I brought him a small plate of leftovers.

The next morning, I hung out at the hospital for most of the day, but after spending three nights there, I wanted to sleep in my own bed. And I always put my holiday decor up on Black Friday, so I wanted to do that too. I went home around 6 pm that night and made myself a lovely Holiday Charcuterie plate with Miyoko's cheddar slices, Renegade vegan salami crackers, Bubbie's pickles, pickled green tomatoes, marcona almonds, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, hummus, figs, and grapes. 

I enjoyed a glass of wine with my snacks, and then I made a spiked nog drink with the Chobani Oat Nog (excellent stuff!!). 

Here's my solstice tree!

Black Friday is also my veganaversary! I've been vegan for 18 years and vegetarian for 28 years!

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Coming Soon! Guru's City Vegan

Memphis is about to get another totally vegan restaurant! Guru's City Vegan is planning an opening at 209 S. Highland in the next few months, which will bring us to five all-vegan restaurants (Imagine Vegan Cafe, Plant-Based Heat, Raw Girls, Da Guilty Vegan food truck, and Guru's). Plus, the city has lots of vegan options at non-vegan restaurants! 

Guru's has been doing pop-ups around the city to get the word out and build a following, and they're typically at Grind City Brewing on Saturday nights. I was there on a recent Saturday but forgot they would be there and accidentally ate dinner right before heading to the brewery. I was so bummed that I wasn't hungry, so I made it a point to try them the following week when they had a Monday night pop-up at Cordelia's Market in Harbor Town. 

I got the City Ribs with Mac & Cheese and Granny's Greens. Y'ALL. THIS PLATE WAS FIRE.

The ribs were soy-based and reminded me of a vegan meat product I tried years ago but could never find again. I don't even remember the brand, but I loved that stuff! So I loved these tangy, juicy vegan ribs. The mac had lots of rosemary, and it was creamy and satisfying. And the greens — wow!! These tasted very much like MY granny's greens!

Besides the pop-ups, they're also doing mass feeding events to feed the homeless here in Memphis, and they recently held an event where they fed 300-plus people (with volunteer help from local rap artists 8Ball and Al Kapone)!

I've peeped out their menu for the brick-and-mortar, and it looks phenomenal! Vegan fried chicken, nachos, drumsticks, quesadillas, lasagna, tacos, grilled cheese, po boys. They've got everything! If you're in Memphis, give them a follow on IG to see where they're popping up next. I'll definitely keep y'all posted when they open their restaurant space. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Race Recap: Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon

Last Saturday, I ran the Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon, and after years of trying, I finally crossed the finish line! In 2018, I signed up for the race and got a stress fracture in my foot two weeks before the race. In 2019, Paul and I ran it together (you can read that race recap here), but we didn't make the cutoff time and were pulled from the race at mile 19. I'm a slower runner, so I'm always chasing cutoffs, but that was my first (and only) experience actually being cut off from finishing. In 2020, I signed up again, but we had this little pandemic that canceled everything so ...

Fast forward to this year: This year's race was actually the rescheduled 2020 race, and it was supposed to happen in spring 2021 but was moved AGAIN to this past weekend. I was soooo glad to FINALLY be running it again! Here I am at the race expo at Nissan Stadium (where the Tennessee Titans play) the day before the race.

I arrived in Nashville on Friday around 2 pm and went straight to the expo. The expo was pretty slim this year. Just a few booths, besides the usual bib and shirt check-in tables. I guess Covid has killed big race expos too. After I worked my way through the expo, I drove to Brentwood to check into my hotel. And then I headed out to Nicoletto's Italian Kitchen because I'd heard they have vegan meatballs and egg-free homemade pasta.

Wow! I may have a new favorite Nashville restaurant! I ordered the Spinach Fettucine with Marinara and Vegan Meatballs, and it was perfection! All of their handmade pastas are vegan, and the big ass meatballs are made with seitan. I probably shouldn't have eaten every bite because I try not to overdo it the night before a race, but it was too good. So I ate it all!

After dinner, I went back to my hotel and enjoyed my one pre-race beer, a Memphis Made Colonial Aggression ESB that I packed from home, while I watched a Forensic Files marathon on HLN. I have a bit of a true crime addiction. 

I went to bed super-early — 8:30ish — since I needed to be up at 4 am for the race. I didn't sleep very well by myself in a new place, but I got up at 4 am and heated my bagel with peanut butter, got dressed, and headed back to Nissan Stadium for the race. They had free parking at the stadium until 6 am, but my race didn't start until 7:20 am. I arrived around 5:30 am and had to sit in my car for about an hour (it was too cold to head to the start line). 

Here I am in my "throwaway clothes" (most races donate discarded items, so I always grab warm stuff from the Goodwill to wear before a race in cooler weather) heading to the start! It was in the 30s at the race start, but thankfully, the weather warmed to almost 60 during the race.

The race got off to a great start, and I was surprised that I was able to hold a fast (for me!!) pace for the first half of the race. Negative splits are ideal, but I've never been able to master that in a marathon, so I like to run a little faster in the first half since I know I'll slow down as I tire. It's not a perfect strategy, but it typically works for me.

The first half of this race is always a giant party because the Rock & Roll series races tend to attract way more half-marathoners. So for 13 miles, you're running with a big crowd. And then the half-marathoners split off, and you're suddenly all alone (or at least that's how it is in the back of the pack where I am). In the past, the second half went through a desolate business district, and it was super-sad. But they changed the course this year, after complaints from runners, and the second half went through a park. 

There was a 3-ish mile loop that repeated twice in that park, and as I entered the park for my first loop, I spotted the mile 24 sign. I knew I wanted to stop and get a picture there if I made it past the cutoff again. I had a good feeling I'd finish the race because my pace was much faster than in 2019. Once I made it into that second loop, I knew I'd made it past the cutoff, and I got a little teary! Paul wasn't able to run with me this year because he's having some health issues, so I knew I needed to finish this race for the both of us.

I finally got to that mile 24 sign and stopped for that picture. I texted this to Paul and said "I'm gonna finish this thing!" He'd been tracking me on my Garmin so he knew I was doing well!

I crossed the finish line only a few seconds slower than my marathon PR from the Little Rock 2020 Marathon! Technically, my Garmin said the Nashville course was a little long, so if I were going by my watch, this race was a PR! Either way, I finished in an excellent (for me!) time!

I was so proud of myself. And I couldn't wait for that free post-race beer. So I hobbled over to the beer tent, only to discover that they were only giving out alcohol-free Heineken. WHAT?! That was a bummer. 

Oh well. I downed my one booze-free beer and then headed to Paul's parents' house (they live in Nashville) for a quick shower. Then I went to Wild Cow for a post-race treat. I wanted to eat everything, but I finally settled on a Gyro Pita Sandwich (made with seitan, mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, olives, and tzatziki) with Hummus & Chips. All that bread and seitan and salt hit the spot!

Then I hopped in the car for the three-hour drive back to Memphis! I was stiff and sore from the race, so bathroom stops were a challenge. But I made it. As soon as I walked in the door, I opened a REAL beer — a 9% ABV Over Achiever Imperial IPA. I figured I'd earned that!

Monday, November 22, 2021

Biscuits, Porridge, & Tofu Scram

Sorry for the lack of posting last week! It was just a busy week. This past weekend, I ran the Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon, and I'll post a full race recap soon. But today, here's a quick post with some recent breakfasts. 

A couple Sundays ago, I woke up and realized I had everything I needed to make Biscuits & Gravy! I'm loving this break from 50K training because it means sleeping in and not running on Sundays. And that means big breakfasts! I had some Gardein vegan sausage and homemade vegan biscuits (from a recent dinner) in the freezer, so I whipped up the sausage sage gravy from Cookin' Crunk and had myself a nice breakfast feast.

Speaking of biscuits, here's a Black-eyed Pea Sausage Biscuit from LuLu's that I picked up from the Cooper-Young Farmer's Market. I'd planned to take it home and heat it after my run that day, but I was so famished after my run that I just ate it cold in the car. Was still delicious!

And here's a Tofu Scramble plate! I used the No Meat Athlete recipe from their Health Made Simple plan with lots of turmeric, cumin, onions, garlic, and spinach. Plus, some air-fried home fries on the side.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Bluff City Vegan Eats: El Mero Taco

El Mero Taco started as a food truck several years ago, and I was always so excited when they showed up at an event I was going to because they always had vegan tacos. Sometimes, it was a seitan taco, and other times, a fresh veggie taco. But there was always at least one option! Then, in 2019, El Mero Taco opened a brick-and-mortar location in Cordova, and I really intended to get there and try more vegan tacos. But somehow, that didn't happen until last Saturday! 

In my defense, Cordova is about a 25-minute drive from my house, and I live in a neighborhood with lots of vegan options. It's hard for me to get motivated to drive out east. But my friend Autumn and I needed to get together for a belated birthday thing, and she lives out there. So we met up at El Mero Taco, and I'm so glad we did! 

They had two vegan tacos on the menu, so I ordered one of each. The Seasonal Veggie Taco had tender sweet potato and zucchini with a spicy pumpkin seed mole, and the Roasted Cauliflower Taco had crispy cauliflower that was tossed with a more traditional mole sauce and topped with pickled onions and cashew cream. I was very impressed that they had cashew cream!

Both tacos were SO GOOD! It'd be easy to throw some veggies on a taco and say, hey, we've got vegan options. But a lot of thought and love went into these recipes, and it was evident from the first bite.

I also got a side of Guac & Chips! The guac was chunky and fresh, and the chips were crispy and tasted like they'd been fried in-house.

El Mero Taco also has a full bar, and a margarita sounded good. But I was craving winter beer with the cooler weather, so I ordered an Old Chub Scottish Ale. A perfect drink to wash down tacos on a cool night!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Fun Times with Miyoko's New Liquid Pizza Cheeze!

I found the new Miyoko's Creamy Liquid Vegan Pizza Mozzarella at Sprouts, and it was on sale for $4.99! So I had to try it! I'm one of those vegans who is quite content with the vegan cheeses we have on the market, and I love a good Daiya-covered pizza. But there's something very appealing about pizza cheese that just pours from a bottle. Maybe it's a nostalgia for liquid nacho cheese from gas stations and stadiums. Or maybe it's because Miyoko is a goddess, and everything she makes it gold. But whatever the case, I was very excited about this!

And it did not let me down! I made Mark Bittman's pizza dough recipe from The New York Times with instant yeast and let it rise for a couple of hours. Then I divided the dough into two balls, so I could make my own pizza and Paul could make his. He wanted dairy cheese, which was fine with me because that means I have enough liquid cheese for another pizza next weekend!

This cultured cashew cheese pours out thick (but not too thick), and you just swirl it on. Before you bake the pizza, it looks like you just poured soup on your pizza. But never fear: After 10 minutes or so in a 500-degree oven, the liquid cooks up into a solid, melty cheese. And it tastes more like dairy mozz than any vegan cheese I've ever tasted!

I ate about half the pizza on Sunday night, and I put up four slices for leftovers. In the fridge, the cheese firms up just like any melted mozzarella, and it re-melts when it's heated. This stuff is awesome, and it will be my new go-to pizza cheese. And of course, I'm sure you're wondering if I drank any straight from the bottle? The answer is yes, my friends. Of course I did! And it was delicious!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Vegan Sushi, Tempeh Chili, & More!

When my friend Greg was in town last week, we had a vegan sushi night! Back in the day, we had vegan sushi and fondue parties (together! in one party!) all the time. So I thought it'd be fun for us to make some sushi for old times' sake. Of course, I'm old now and prefer brown rice over white rice for health reasons. So I made some brown rice sushi, while Greg stuck to the traditional white rice sushi. I did end up eating both though! Served with a Wiseacre Irusu Rice Lager, which paired perfectly with sushi.

We also made some Veggie Tempura with fried tofu (double-fried!!!), foraged oyster mushrooms (that I found in Overton Park), bell pepper, and green beans. For the batter, we just used a mix that I found at the Viet Hoa Vietnamese market.

After my long run last Saturday, I was craving tacos. So I made some Black Bean & Rice Tacos with some leftover black beans and the leftover brown sushi rice!

Here's a mid-week Green Bean & Tofu Stir-fry with air-fried tofu. I tossed the tofu in Trader Joe's mushroom salt and dried lemongrass before air frying for 15 minutes. The sauce was just Bragg's, garlic powder, and onion powder thickened with some cornstarch.

And finally, here's the most awesome bowl of chili! I made Robert Cheeke's 3-Bean Tempeh Chili from The Plant-Based Athlete and used the toppings he recommended: lettuce, tomato, avocado, and black olives. Served with a slice of sourdough bread from Lucy J's Bakery. I love meals like this when the weather gets cooler!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Donuts, Tiny Burgers, & Cocktails!

My friend Lily's vegan donut business, Darling Donuts, has exploded! She's been doing once-a-month orders on her Instagram for special holiday boxes, and they're selling out so fast. For Halloween, the special boxes were sold out by Oct. 3! I tried to get one, but it was too late. So when Lily finally got caught up, she left a surprise box of random donuts on my doorstep. She is an amazing human! This box was actually my reward for getting to 900 points in my point tracking system (where I give myself a point for healthy actions like running, yoga, foam rolling, etc.). I started this in January, and I get a cool treat for every 100 points. 

These were amazing! I saved one apple fritter for the freezer, but the rest are long gone!

Here are some Gardein Beefless Sliders that I had for a quick dinner on Saturday night. My mom bought these while she was house-sitting a while back, and she left them in my freezer. Such a fun meal!

One day last week, I had a lunch meeting, so I grabbed a quick avocado toast from French Truck Coffee (no photo, sorry!). But I was still hungry afterward, so then I picked up a very non-photogenic cup of Chickpea-Lentil Soup from Juice Bar in Crosstown Concourse. It's nice to have so many dining options where I work!

And finally, speaking of where I work, our bar — Art Bar at Crosstown Arts — is open to the public again (after a long pandemic closure), and they're back to making beautiful cocktails. This one is called I'd Smoke That and it was very similar to a margarita (it has Dr. Stoner's tequila).

This one is called Stiff As a Board and has bourbon, reishi, and lotus bitters. Very lovely!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Lots of Takeout!

My friend Greg was in town last week, and we did lots of eating out! Way more than usual for me. One of our stops was at the new Plant-Based Heat, a totally vegan restaurant that's really knocking it out of the park with their delicious food! I tried the Agave Gold Vings (vegan wings) with fries. These wings were super crispy and coated with a tangy-sweet BBQ sauce. They offer Vings in so many different flavors. I can't wait to try more.

Greg is a big fan of Vietnamese food, and we have lots of that here in Memphis! When he arrived in town on Saturday, we went straight to Pho Binh and ordered Green Bean Tofu and Mushroom Tofu takeout. Unfortunately, Pho Binh is doing takeout only. I soooo miss their amazing tofu buffet. But the bonus to takeout is that they give you so much food that it lasts for days.

Paul loves Pho Binh's Tofu Pho, so he ordered some of that. But he never finishes an order, and I always end up with his leftovers, as seen here! Again, they give you enough for at least two meals!

We also stopped at Pho Saigon so Greg could order Bahn Xeo, which is what I would typically order as well. But I really wanted to try the Bahn Out (rice pancake) this time. These chewy white rice pancakes are topped with fried onions, fried tofu, fresh carrot and daikon, fresh basil, and cucumber. They serve this with fish sauce, but I asked to have that left off and then used soy sauce for seasoning.

And finally, here's a LuLu's Wake Up Wednesday breakfast of a Tofu Breakfast Sando with sauteed oyster mushrooms (that Don foraged locally!!) with a coffee from Boycott Coffee.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Brats, Pizza, & Baked Potatoes!

A couple weeks ago, when we were solidly in mid-October, I got into the fall spirit with an Oktoberfest-themed meal of Vegan Beer Brats and German Potato Salad, served with a Crosstoberfest beer from Crosstown Brewing. I used Simple Truth Kielbasa for the sausage, and I simmered them in Crosstoberfest beer. The potato salad was made with veggie bacon and cooked onions in the traditional German way (with a touch of added mayo, which is not traditional but delicious).

Paul and I love to go to the Wiseacre Brewing taproom downtown because Paul loves the pizza at their in-house eatery, Little Bettie. Typically, he orders pizza, and I just get beer. But they do have a vegan pie on the menu, so I finally tried The Slightly (that's the name of the pizza). It's a very simple thin crust pizza with tomato sauce, shaved garlic, olive oil, and chili oil. No cheese. I was a little skeptical of a cheese-less vegan pizza with very few veggies, but it was a good. More a flatbread with sauce on it. But good! I did add vegan cheese to my leftovers the next day. 

Here's a recent Baked Loaded Sweet Potato with chickpeas, kale, and tahini sauce. I love a simple and healthy meal like this!

I recently made the Don't Waste the Good Stuff Squash Soup from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook, which uses all bits of the squash (including seeds and stringy bits). It was really yummy, and you couldn't even tell the seeds were blended into the soup. I served this with some toasted sourdough from Lucy J's Bakery.

And finally, here's some Purple Hull Pea Soup made with fresh, local peas and tomatoes (the last red ones for the year!). I made this in the Instant Pot and served with some frozen cornbread that I'd put up after baking a batch a while back.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Goodbye Pancho's!

Pancho's, a chain of Memphis Mexican restaurants, is a local institution, and they're closing for good in about a week. My friend Andy and I had to make one last stop at the iconic West Memphis Pancho's (which is actually in West Memphis, Arkansas — just over the bridge). 

When I was a kid, growing up in Jonesboro, Arkansas, trips to Memphis for Pancho's were a big deal. My parents used to go on dates to Pancho's when they were young, and they continued the tradition with me after I was born. Pancho's is best-known for their cheese dip, which is served with free chips and salsa before every meal. Here's my chips and salsa (without the cheese dip) from last week's visit. They have excellent salsa!

I used to LOVE Pancho's cheese dip, and it was probably the hardest thing to give up when I went vegan in 2004. Seriously. If I could eat one dairy product again, it would be Pancho's cheese dip.

After I went vegan, I still met my parents at Pancho's for dinner a few times a year. They'd drive over from Jonesboro, and I'd make the 15-minute drive from my house in Memphis to Arkansas. My mom figured out how to make a vegan version of Pancho's famous dip, so she started sneaking in vegan cheese dip in her purse so I could enjoy "Pancho's dip" at the restaurant. 

I even discovered a vegan menu item around that time! Pancho's had a Spinach Mexican Pizza on the menu that can be ordered without cheese, so it's just a fried tostada with steamed spinach, olives, and scallions. I usually topped that with guac and Pancho's dressing (a mustard-y sweet dressing that is just about as awesome as the cheese dip! But it's vegan!). 

Last week, when Andy and I made our last Pancho's trip, I ordered one last Mexican pizza. They were out of guac that night because they've been slammed since the closure was announced. Everyone is sad about losing our beloved Pancho's. Luckily, they did have plenty of Pancho's dressing, so I drizzled that all over my pizza, and it was perfection.

Thankfully, they weren't out of margaritas! We had to have one last drink!

For those locals who still eat cheese, never fear. Pancho's is closing to focus on the dip business, and I've heard the dressing will still be sold in stores too. I'll have to make sure I stock up on the dressing to always have a little Pancho's in my house.