Friday, December 31, 2021

Christmas with Family & Friends!

Our Christmas celebration started on December 23, when I made the drive to Jonesboro to do gift exchanges with my me-maw and my BFF Sheridan. My parents moved to Cherokee Village, Arkansas, a couple months ago, but my me-maw still lives in my hometown. So my parents and I met in Jonesboro (about an hour drive for both of us) at me-maw's house. 

My mama made Vegan Chicken & Dumplins and Collards. Me-maw made Soup Beans and Corn. And I made Cornbread. Such a perfect Southern dinner!

Mama also made some Vegan Raspberry Bars with graham crust, coconut, and vegan white and dark chocolate. These were SO GOOD!

Mama also made my very favorite dessert — BANANA PUDDIN! Yum! I could have eaten this whole pan. 

After we ate and did gifts, I drove over to Native Brew Works to meet up with Sheridan and Drew. They were already in town for family stuff too. Jonesboro is in a dry county, so the fact that they have a new brewery is BIG. By law, they're not allowed to say what they brew (ha!), and there are all kinds of weird laws around how they can operate. But I'm just so glad they're there!! I tried the Dry County IPA and a small sample pour of the coffee ale. Both were excellent. Would have loved to have tried more, but I had to drive home to Memphis. Here we are in front of the keg tree!

I drove back to Memphis that night, and the next day, Paul and I made the drive to Cherokee Village to hang out with my parents. Maynard came too! He loves his grandma and grandpa.

For Xmas Eve dinner, we had Beyond Burgers and French Fries!

And mama made with Vegan Carob Haystacks with carob, chow mein noodles, and peanuts. I couldn't stay out of these.

We watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and enjoyed some cocktails. My dad makes the best bloody marys, and then we headed to bed.

On Xmas morning, mama made Just Egg, Sausage, and Hash Browns, and I made my favorite Vegan Pancakes. I was so excited that mama had Cocowhip and fresh berries for toppings. I love whipped cream on my pancakes!

After breakfast, we opened presents. I got an outdoor composter, some Jaybird Vista earbuds for running, and lots of sweaters (and money for jean shopping!). We took some pics on my parents' lake dock, and then we headed back to Memphis.

Later that night, we stuck with tradition and got some Chinese takeout from Mulan. I got their Tofu Fried Rice, and we split an order of Fresh Spring Rolls

Hope everyone had a great Christmas! And happy New Year!!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Solstice with the Pets!

Well hey there! Remember me? Ha! I've been on vacation from work since December 21, and my routine has just gone to hell. So I forgot to blog for a week. Oops! Plus, I've been busy with holiday stuff and watching Ted Lasso and The Morning Show on Apple TV. Anyway, I'll be recapping Christmas over the next few posts, and then beginning January 3, I'll start posting about my planned January reset.

December 21 was Winter Solstice, which is when Paul and I traditionally celebrate with the pets. 

After work (my last day until January 3!), I went home and enjoyed a Yule feast of Holiday Ham & Bean Soup with cornbread. This recipe was from the Llewelyn Sabbats Almanac, and it wasn't vegan. It called for pork ham, but I substituted some homemade seitan ham that I had prepared the day before. The soup also had mixed veggies, blackeyed peas, and white beans.

I also made the Winter Solstice Salad from the almanac. This has grapes, pom seeds, cucumber, pistachios, and an olive oil vinaigrette. The mixed greens with red leaves and the grapes and pomegranate were meant to symbolize the red and green colors of the season. 

After dinner, we opened presents with the pets! But first, we made them wear Santa hats. Ozzy was mildly annoyed.

Polaris was very annoyed.

And Maynard stuck his tongue out at us! HA!

Seymour, the cat who lives on the kitchen cabinets, wouldn't tolerate such antics, so we didn't even bother putting a hat on him. They got lots of treats and toys (my elderly cats still enjoy toys!). Maynard got some EcoBone vegan rawhide bones, and loved those.

Rather than buy presents for each other this year, Paul and I went in halfsies on a nice firepit since our old one rusted out. We built a nice fire in the backyard after we finished presents with the pets. 

Hope everyone had a happy Solstice! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Potato Soup, Tofu Scramble, & a Vegan Bowl!

Ever since The Plant-Based Athlete book (by Matt Frazier and Robert Cheeke) came out this past summer, I've been working my way through the recipe section. The recipes were submitted by all the vegan athletes featured in the book, and Robert submitted quite a few. His seemed to be some of the simplest recipes, so I naturally gravitated to those first. I've made most of those, but I finally tried his Legendary Tuscan Potato Soup this past week. This was, indeed, legendary. It's a chunky potato soup that loaded with kale and Field Roast apple-sage sausages. Perfect with sourdough and salad on a cold December night.

Here's another awesome dish from The Plant-Based Athlete. Bikini athlete Natalie Matthews' Simple Tofu Scramble might be my favorite scramble recipe yet! It's so simple — seasoned with just adobo and nooch. I will probably make this my standard go-to. I even like it better than my own Cookin' Crunk scramble recipe (which is still really awesome and available HERE)!

And finally, here's a classic grain/green bowl! I used a base of brown rice and topped that with some frozen, sauteed Swiss chard and brussels and an easy tahini sauce (tahini, Bragg's, nooch, garlic, sriracha). So good!

Monday, December 20, 2021

Tortas, Brekkys, & Party Plates!

Last Friday, I met up with my friend Susan at Global Café in Crosstown Concourse. I've sampled just about every vegan thing on the menu there, except I'd somehow never tried their Vegan Torta. So vegan torta it was! This MASSIVE sandwich is stuffed with seasoned black beans, avocado, cabbage, tomato, red onion, and pickled jalapenos, and it's fantastic. It's also the size of my head. They use fresh bread that's baked next door at Lucy J's Bakery. I could only eat half for lunch and took the rest home for leftovers!

Last Wednesday was the last Lulu's Wake Up Wednesdays breakfast pop-up at Boycott Coffee for the year. I had to run 5 miles on Wednesday, so I drove downtown and parked my car near Boycott at 5:45 am (breakfast started at 6:30 am), ran 5 miles, and ended right at Lulu's pop-up table. I got a Brekky Sandwich with tofu egg and smoked carrot bacon for the road (and a coffee from Boycott!). I don't really have time to sit down to breakfast on running days, so I enjoyed it in the car on the 7-ish minute drive home. Just enough time to devour a whole sandwich.

Yesterday, Paul and I were invited to a holiday brunch and Dirty Santa game at our friends Nicole and Vaughan's house. Nicole made a big spread of food, so I had a little of everything — falafel, hummus, pita, vegan cheese and crackers, Gardein roast, salad, spring rolls, and (not pictured because it was in a separate bowl) spaghetti!

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Raw Girls Cookies!

I've recently discovered my new favorite Memphis treat! A couple weeks ago, Raw Girls — a Memphis vegan restaurant chain with two food trucks and a brick-and-mortar place downtown — posted about their special holiday cookies. I love Raw Girls because their food is super-healthy and always vegan, and they've been doing the vegan thing in Memphis since before it was cool here. Despite the name, it's not all raw, but you'll find plenty of raw options (the raw crackers with hummus and the raw taco salad are my favorite things to order).

The cookies are not 100% raw or even sugar-free, but they are made with wholesome ingredients, and they're gluten-free. Now, I'm not usually one to go for a gluten-free cookie (or anything gluten-free, except I do have a love for legume pastas). But something about that cookie post just made me want one! 

So right after work, I drove straight to their Cooper Avenue food truck. And sadly, they were sold out. Apparently, everyone had the same idea after that post! But of course, I still needed a cookie. So I got a Peanut Butter Cookie instead. 

I saved this for work the next day, to enjoy with a warm cup of tea. And y'all, that gluten-free peanut butter cookie was the best I've ever had! It was so soft and chewy and peanutty. Yum!

I posted about my cookie on Instagram (and mentioned that it was a happy accident since they were out of the holiday cookie I came for), and the Raw Girls left a comment saying they'd save me a holiday cookie that day! They're so nice!

So, later that day, I went by the truck again and got my holiday cookie. I saved this for work the next day, and again, enjoyed it with a cup of tea. This was sugar cookie perfection. It was also gluten-free, but you'd never know if the package didn't say so. It was everything a sugar cookie should be — soft, chewy, buttery. And vegan! 

I know many of my readers aren't in Memphis, but if you are, don't sleep on these Raw Girls vegan cookies! And if you're passing through Memphis ever, be sure to stop by the Raw Girls truck or shop to try their awesome and healthy food.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Pizza & Wings & More!

All year, I've been tracking my habits in the Counter app, allotting myself one point every time I run, do yoga, foam roll, eat all the colors of the rainbow in a day, or other healthy habits. Every time I reach 100 points, I treat myself to something decadent to eat or a shopping spree or just something special. For my 1,000-point reward this weekend, I went all out and bought a WHOLE PIZZA from Imagine Vegan Cafe! They were doing their pizza special this weekend (they don't typically serve pizza), so I figured it was meant to be. I got the Cheeseburger Pizza with Beyond beef, mushrooms, onions, cheddar, and mozz. 

These were large pizzas, not the typical single-serve pizza I would order elsewhere. So this lasted me three glorious days! Every bite was magic. Well-earned.

One day last week, I met an old friend at Slider Inn downtown for lunch and ordered my usual — Vegan Tofu and Cauliflower Wings. I normally get a side of fries, but that seemed heavy for lunch, so I got their side salad with vegan ranch. I LOVE these wings! They give you three tofu wings and three cauli wings, and they're so crispy and delicious.

Here's my Sunday breakfast from last weekend. I made a big ole "clean out the fridge" Tofu Scramble using whatever veggies I could find in the freezer and fridge (chard, broccoli, onions, bell peppers) and a side of Avo Toast with half an avocado that had been lingering in the fridge for a few days.

And here's a very healthy and oh-so-tasty meal from The Alzheimer's Solution book. This is the Mediterranean Brain Bowl with massaged kale, roasted chickpeas and roasted sweet potatoes, turmeric quinoa, and a lemon-dill-tahini sauce. Everything I've made from this book has been amazing! Crazy how delicious sugar-free, brain-healthy food can be!

Monday, December 13, 2021

Product Review: Vegan Buttermilk!!

A few weeks ago, when shopping at Sprouts, a new product caught my eye! The Best Taste is Plant-Based Vegan Buttermilk by Mill It. That's a great name for a product (and from a company I'd never heard of), and as a Southerner, I was very excited to see this crucial cornbread and pancake ingredient in vegan form.

Now, for years, I've gotten by just fine by making my own vegan buttermilk with plant milk and vinegar. A small splash of ACV in just about any type of plant milk works great in pancakes, cornbread, biscuits, and any other buttermilk-containing recipes. But there's something exciting about see plant-based buttermilk sold in the store. Plus, this version was made with live active cultures, just like dairy buttermilk. My homemade version doesn't have all that!

The buttermilk is made with cultured ancient grains (sorghum and millet), coconut cream, and sunflower seed butter.  First, I tried the milk straight from the bottle, and I have to say it didn't taste quite like I remember dairy buttermilk tasting. It seemed a bit chalky. Not bad. But not something I'd want to drink from a glass.

But it did have that buttermilk twang, and I knew it'd be great in pancakes! So last Sunday, I whipped up some Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes using this Tasty recipe (but subbing the buttermilk and subbing whole wheat pastry flour for the white flour). They turned out great! Light and fluffy with a very subtle twang.

Next, I tried the buttermilk in cornbread (using my recipe from Cookin' Crunk). Again, light and fluffy! Probably some of the best cornbread I've made in a while! I served this with a bowl of homemade Purple Hull Pea Soup (made with the last of my CSA peas).

The buttermilk did great with cornbread and pancakes, but the bottle also suggested adding this to smoothies. So, I've been adding a half-cup to my post-run smoothies each morning, and I do believe that's been my favorite use of the buttermilk so far! You can really taste the active cultures in a smoothie, much like when you add yogurt to a smoothie. I finished the bottle off in my smoothie this morning, and I'm a little sad about it. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Product Review: Vite Ramen

I love ramen in all its forms: the classic cheap bags that have accidentally vegan flavors, the healthier baked ramen, fancy restaurant ramen, gluten-free ramen, rice noodle ramen. I'm here for all of it. But there's a new ramen in town, and it's not only delicious but loaded with vitamins, minerals, and protein. Vite Ramen sent me their vegan flavors — Vegan White Miso and Sichuan Chili Edition — and they are truly a meal in a bag! They also included a Vite Ramen spoon and chopsticks in the package!

The noodles are baked (not fried) and made with quinoa, corn flour, wheat, and kansui (a traditional ramen ingredient that helps with bite and texture). Each bag has up to 31 grams of protein (that's more than a four-ounce steak, y'all). The next time someone asks me where I get my protein, I'm just gonna say "ramen."

They're also made with a proprietary nutrient blend (which they call "noodtrients") that contains 27 micronutrients, plus 7 grams of prebiotic fiber, MCT oil, and ALA omega-3s. 

I tried the Vegan White Miso first and added tofu, spinach, and scallions. Likely due to the high protein, this was a super-filling bowl, and the flavor was so intensely awesome. The seasoning packet is quite large so you don't have to worry with adding any additional flavors to your bowl. I've been known to add lots of Bragg's my Koyo ramen bowls, but these Vite Ramen packets have all the flavor you need.

The noodles have a firm bite, much like fried ramen. They reminded me of the fancy homemade noodles I've been served in good ramen restaurants.

The Sichuan Chili was my fave though! It comes with a spicy oil, and this bowl was just bursting with flavor. I added tofu and lots of veggies: mushrooms, carrots, corn, green beans, snap peas, scallions, and spinach. 

This ramen is fantastic! If you served this to someone who didn't know better, they'd assume it was not healthy. When health food tastes like junk food, that's a win in my book!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Thanksgiving Burgers, Chickpea Quiche, & More!

I've mentioned on this blog about a million times that I'm trying to make every single recipe in the No Meat Athlete Cookbook, and I'm nearly there! But one recipe that I keep forgetting to make when it's seasonally appropriate are the Thanksgiving Burgers. I always look at the recipe in the summer and think, I should remember to make those around Thanksgiving. And then I forget. Well, this year was different. I finally remembered! These veggie burgers are made with tempeh, butternut squash, brussels, cranberries, pecans, and a fall/winter seasoning blend that's heavy on the sage. They taste just like Thanksgiving dressin (or stuffing as people up north would say). I've been enjoying these with homemade pickled onions and whole grain mustard on Dave's Killer Bread buns (with a side of sweet potato fries).

Another recipe that I finally tried from the book was the Chickpea Quiche. This has a base of chickpea flour and greens (I used spinach) and is basically Indian pudla. I love pudla, and I'm not sure why it took me so long to make this recipe. But it's an easy one, and I'll be making it again and again.

The book also makes suggestions for how to reuse leftovers in new and fun ways. They suggested trying the quiche in a sandwich with greens, so I had that for breakfast one day this week (with vegan mayo, spinach, and sprouts).

Here's some delicious Lentil Soup from Global Café at Crosstown Concourse (where I work). I got this to-go for lunch one day and took it home to eat it for lunch. They serve their soups with hand-fried tortilla chips!

And here's a bowl I had on Sunday night! I made some marinated and baked noochy tofu and served it over brown rice with avocado, kale, and pickled onions. Seasoned liberally with Bragg's and hot sauce!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

All the Potatoes! And More!

I've been on a potato kick lately! I baked some potatoes for quick dinners and lunches last week and topped them in fun ways. My favorite was this Loaded Baked Potato with vegan cheese, seitan bacon, bacon-y roasted chickpeas, sour cream, chives, and Earth Balance. I seasoned those chickpeas with vegan bacon salt and air-fried until crispy.

Here's another tater topped with black beans, salsa, broccoli, avocado, sour cream, and sprouts! Like a salad on top of a potato!

Last week was Hanukah, and though I'm not Jewish, I do love latkes! I made Isa's Baked Potato Pancakes (her low-oil spin on traditional shredded and fried latkes) from The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook. These were really awesome with vegan sour cream and applesauce!

I got some beautiful turnips in my last CSA, so I roasted them up and served with a slice of seitan roast (that I put up in the freezer when I last made a big batch) and kale.

And finally, here's a tasty and quick work lunch. Vegan Mac & Cheese (from a box! The Annie's Naturals brand) with seitan bacon and broccoli, plus a yummy side salad with vegan ranch.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Race Recap: St. Jude Memphis Half-Marathon

Another Monday, another race recap! Fall racing season is well underway, and it feels like I've had a race nearly every weekend lately (though it's actually been two weeks since my last marathon in Nashville). This past Saturday was the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, and though I've run the full here a couple times, I opted for the half-marathon this year to give my legs a little break after doing two 50ks and a marathon in the past 90 days.

Let's start this post on Friday night with my pre-race pasta dinner. I picked up some dried pasta at Nicoletto's in Nashville when I was there, so I had some of that with jarred mushroom marinara and sauteed mushrooms, plus a lot of noochy-hemp seed parm. 

On Saturday morning, I got up around 5 am and had my standard pre-race bagel with almond butter. St. Jude did a staggered start this year, due to the pandemic, so my start time wasn't until 8:45 am, which is fairly late for a race start. My friend Megan was also signed up for the half, and it was her very first one! I was excited to be there running Megan's first half with her. We rode together (Paul dropped us off) and waited near the start line.

We crossed the start line at 8:45 am, and Megan and I ran together for about four miles, including a jaunt through the St. Jude campus. This race is St. Jude's biggest fundraiser and helps in their mission to never charge families for medical services. 

After we passed the campus, I was feeling good, so I tapped Megan on the shoulder and told her I was taking off. I sped up and held a pretty quick (for me) pace for the rest of the race. 

Paul is recovering from colon surgery, so I was surprised to see him waiting for me to pass on North Parkway near our house! That gave me a nice burst of energy.

Here's a banner that I helped hang for work the night before the race. It was cool to pass under it on the run. 

The race was just a giant party this year. Maybe it was all that pent-up energy from missing a year of the race in 2020, but the spectators came out in full force between Crosstown Concourse and Stonewall in the Evergreen neighborhood. 

When I passed the Crosstown Memphis CDC cheer station (I sit on the CDC board), fellow member Justin handed me a shot of Fireball. So I took that! Also, another CDC member Anna Joy ran with me to cheer me on for a bit! 

Then a few feet down the road, the Memphis Hash House Harriers were handing our beer shots. And then on Stonewall, a man handed me a shot of champagne. Beale Street Brewing made a special beer for the race, and they had samples on North Parkway. Whew! Oh, and on other parts of the course, there were whiskey shots and rum shots. It sounds kind of crazy, but these were very small shots, 1/2-ounce pours typically, so they're just enough to give you a teensy boost. What a fun time! There was so much booze that I ended up turning down a few shots.

Oh, and here's an asparagus that I met in the race.

I finished in decent time. Not my fastest race and not my slowest. I wasn't going for a PR, just a party. And boy did I get a party!

After the race, I got some vegetable soup from the McAlister's booth in the post-race area at AutoZone Park (our baseball stadium), and then I headed for the beer tent to try the special Lighting In All beer that Wiseacre Brewing made just for the race. Our local breweries are so awesome! Megan finished a little after me, and we enjoyed our beers in a grassy area on the hill. The St. Jude Memphis race is always such a good one! 

After my shower, I wanted something decadent to eat, so I went to Imagine Vegan Cafe and ordered the Appetizer Sampler with loaded potato skins, pigs in blankets, hot wings, chicken nuggets, and hush puppies. YUM!!!