Thursday, April 28, 2022

New Vegan Products: Babybel, Biscotti, and Beyond Meat Jerky!

This is not a traditional product review post, where a company sends me something to try. I just picked up a few fun new-to-me items at stores, and I wanted to talk about them. First up, I am so in love with the new Plant-based Babybel Cheese!! I heard our local Costco had it, but I don't have a Costco membership, so I asked my friend Nicole if she'd pick some up for me. And she did! As a gift! And because it was Costco, the bag was supersized with 32 cheeses! Memphis friends: I've since heard Whole Foods also carries it. 

As much as I love to be eco-friendly and not waste plastic, I did appreciate that they're all individually wrapped because these are perfect for tossing in a purse for a snack.

The most exciting part of Babybel is peeling the wax. I've been treating myself to one of these every day just because I love peeling wax. As for the taste, they're really good. I'd say they're closest in taste to Follow Your Heart mozz. Now if only someone would come out with vegan string cheese ...

Next up is inBite Vegan Mini Biscotti. We have a new small, mom-and-pop (or more like mom-and-daughter because it's run by an awesome mother-daughter team) grocery called Grind City Grocer. They offer most Memphis-made products, but the owner is vegan, so she also stocks a few fun, non-local vegan items, like these tiny biscotti. 

I stopped by to grab another product (more on that soon), and she hooked me up with a bag of these. They're perfect for coffee-dipping, and they have a strong almond flavor on top of the chocolate chip. Makes my second cup of coffee extra fun in the mornings!

And finally, I nearly squealed out loud when I found the Beyond Meat Jerky at my neighborhood Walgreens. They had three flavors, but I opted to start with the Original. 

I snapped the pic in the store to send to a friend, so I grabbed a pic of the Teriyaki. But I haven't tried that one yet. I do need to run to Walgreens later to restock some elf makeup products, so I will definitely be getting more jerky. The flavor tastes very much like all the other Beyond products (which is a good thing), and the jerky has a nice chew.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Product Review: Bite Society Vegan Cookies!

A few weeks back, I did a post about Bite Society's awesome vegan baskets! Bite Society — an LGBTQ- and woman-owned company — features Seattle-made products, and they're packaged in reusable tins and jars with cute Americana flash tattoo art. When they sent a basket with truffle chips, dilly bean pickles, granola, tulsi tea, Salsa Macha, and more, they had not yet released their vegan cookies. But they've since added a vegan option to their Sweet Cookie Collection, so they sent me a tube to try.

Yes, that's right. A tube of cookies. The Vegan Lime-Coconut Cookies come in one of their signature flash tattoo-styled tins.

These are crunchy butter cookies (made with plant butter, of course) with hints of lime and toasted coconut. One bite has me thinking about the beach because nothing says summer like lime and coconut. 

One thing I love is that they're called "after dinner cookies," which makes them feel extra special for some reason. Like, of course you can eat them whenever you want, but I love the idea of having a little sweet treat right after dinner. I've never been a big dessert after dinner person; I'm more of a dessert around 2 p.m. with tea person. But I've been enjoying these after my dinner because I like following instructions.

You can order these a la carte, but Bite Society also offers vegan gift baskets that include the cookies, as well as those amazing truffled kettle chips, granola, pickles, teas, and so much more!

Monday, April 25, 2022

Chickpea Mac, Pumpkin Pesto, & a Tofu Wrap

Several weeks ago, I picked up a box of Banza Vegan Mac & Cheese. I love Banza pasta, which is made from chickpeas, as a high-protein pasta option. Sometimes you want lots of carbs, and other times, I want my pasta to be filled with protein. I finally made the mac last week and enjoyed some in a dinner fit for a three-year-old — Fry's Family Vegan Chicken Nuggets with Spicy Maple Mustard, Banza Mac & Cheese, and Sauteed Swiss Chard (from the farmers' market).

The mac was really good. The powdered sauce mix was made with all whole food ingredients, like sweet potato, nooch, and pumpkin. I mixed the leftovers with some sauteed broccoli the next day for a tasty bowl.

Last Friday, the night before my long run, I opened a jar of Wicked Foods Pumpkin Pesto and mixed with whole wheat penne and toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds (as recommended on the jar). This was fantastic! Creamy, pumpkiny, perfect with sides of chard and broccoli while watching Bad Vegan. Y'all, have you watched this yet??? I had no idea how crazy Sarma's story was!

Earlier in the day on Friday, I biked to Young Avenue Deli to meet my old Memphis Flyer coworkers Susan and Toby for lunch. The deli has a lot of vegan stuff, but my go-to is always the Hummus Pita (add fried tofu). The tofu is a $3 up-charge, but it's worth it. The Deli has really great fries, but Susan ordered some for the table. So I got a side salad as my side.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Paul's 42nd Birthday Dinner at Pete & Sam's!

My partner Paul turned 42 this past Tuesday. He had to work, and we didn't have anything planned because he wasn't sure what time he'd get off. But when he learned, mid-day, that he'd be off by 5 p.m., we decided to go to dinner. He wanted to find the best meat lasagna in Memphis, so we ended up at Pete & Sam's. This is a Memphis institution, and it's been around since 1948. The sign and decor haven't changed much over the years, which is pretty cool.

I'd eaten there once before — when I was vegetarian and not vegan — and had the pasta marinara. So I assumed I'd order that again. But when we got there, our server informed me that the marinara had cheese. Damn. So I had basically two options — order a cheeseless pizza (but I wasn't in the mood for that) or order a salad and make a meal of salad, bread with olive oil, and Chianti. I did the latter and ordered the Miss Vita Salad, which was perfect with the free loaf of bread they brought out. By the way, our server was super-awesome in helping me navigate my options!

The server did confirm that their homemade Italian dressing was vegan, and this salad was SO GOOD.  Olives and pepperoncinis are my fave. I actually love simple meals like this and was kinda glad I couldn't eat the pasta. Because this meant I got to eat a whole loaf of bread for dinner.

Paul ordered lots of non-vegan stuff, so I'll spare you the details. But he was very pleased with his birthday dinner.

And I was very pleased with this glass of Chianti. I wish I remembered the brand!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Easy Fried Rice, Black Bean Pasta, & More!

I had a hankering for some Just Egg the other day, but I didn't bother to look at the date on the bottle in the store. I noticed when I got home that it said "expires April 19." I've never been one to care much about that sort of thing, but I've heard that Just Egg goes bad pretty quickly. I've never had that experience, but I always try to use it before the date. That said, as long as it passes the sniff test, I'll still eat it. But in an effort to use it quickly, I made some Tofu & Veggie Fried Rice using day-old brown rice, air-fried tofu, Just Egg, frozen carrots and broccoli, onion, and spinach. Plus, a little sesame oil for flavor. A perfect lunch!

I also had some for breakfast yesterday with a side of Avocado Toast on LuLu's whole wheat sourdough.

Speaking of LuLu's, I also picked up this tasty Potato Focaccia from their stand at the Cooper-Young Farmer's Market on Saturday. A perfect post-10-mile run treat! I went to the market and then stuck around CY for a run, so this was waiting for me in the car after my workout.

Here's my weekly Raw Girls lunch from Monday! I got their Black Bean Pasta, which is tossed with hemp seeds and comes with sides of pesto and fresh tomato salsa. Man, this is SO GOOD. The protein pasta dishes at Raw Girls are my fave (well, those and the falafel bowl).

Monday, April 18, 2022

BBQ Bella, Beyond Burger, & More

This past weekend, a couple of Paul's best friends from high school flew in to celebrate his birthday (which is Tuesday), and they're both meat eaters. And when meat eaters visit Memphis, they want barbecue. I suggested Central BBQ because, not only are they known for their pork 'cue, they also have a vegan option! The BBQ Portabella Sandwich typically comes with slaw and cheese, but it's vegan if you leave those off. It's not the most exciting sandwich (portabellas rarely are), but it's nice to have an option. Most BBQ places here have nothing I can eat. And Central's homemade BBQ chips are awesome! Washed down with a Memphis Made Brew Junt for extra Memphis points.

Here's a recent Beyond Burger that I made at home. It's topped with Follow Your Heart provolone and served with truffled kettle chips from Bite Society. Those chips are seriously the best chips I've ever had.

Here's a not-so-pretty bowl, but this is what a lot of my meals look like. It's quinoa, pintos, steamed kale, canned beets, and tahini sauce. Simple and healthy.

And here's a delicious plate of pasta that I had one Friday night! The sauce was Wicked Foods Black Olive Pesto, which I mixed with some fun-shaped pasta from Nicoletto's (a Nashville-based pasta company), asparagus, mushrooms, and bell pepper. The Wicked Foods pesto is SO GOOD. It's kind of pricy, but I had some coupons so I stocked up on Wicked stuff.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Cookbook Review: Easy Vegan Home Cooking

I've long been a fan of Laura Theodore (aka The Jazzy Vegetarian). Her PBS cooking show was one of the first vegan cooking shows back when veganism was still considered a weird hippie thing, and her recipes are always so simple and wholesome. 

I was sent a review copy of Laura's new book,
Easy Vegan Home Cooking, which features more than 125 plant-based and gluten-free recipes. Now, I have nothing against gluten, but as a vegan, I know what it's like to feel excluded. So it's nice when recipes are both vegan and gluten-free so EVERYONE can eat them. 

Since this is "easy home cooking," Laura includes a nice pantry section featuring plant-based must-haves for quick meals, like rolled oats, canned beans, and tahini — all ingredients featured in many of her recipes. She includes a section on making your own cream sauces with cashews, cauliflower, or white beans, plus tips on how to select and prep tofu. Then she dives straight into the recipes.

I made a couple dishes; first up, the Savory Asparagus Tofu Scramble. This was a classic scramble, but I'd never though to use asparagus. That's a veggie I just don't eat enough of, and it's in season right now! The scramble also called for shredded vegan cheese, which made it extra special. I'm now inspired to start adding cheese to all of my scrambles.

Although Laura calls for optional vegan cheese here, she very rarely relies on processed foods. Her recipes call for fresh veggies, grains, greens, beans, nuts, and seeds. Her style is very old-school hippie vegan, and the recipes remind of meals I ate in my early vegan days before we had all the fancy vegan meats and cheeses and ice creams and other junk foods. Love those things! But I also love a healthy, wholesome meal. 

Next up, I made Laura's Buddha Bowl. This has BBQ tempeh, roasted sweet potatoes, turmeric quinoa (she uses a lot of quinoa in this book), shredded carrots, steamed kale, maple-y tahini, and toasted sunflower seeds. Bowls are my favorite thing to eat on a busy weeknight. They're super-healthy, and they digest well on nights when I go to bed early. For the BBQ tempeh, you make a homemade BBQ sauce that's maple-sweetened, which feels healthier than sugar. I especially loved the sweet and savory lemon tahini sauce!

Other recipes I can't wait to try: Confetti Potato Salad (it has green olives and red peppers!), Chicken-ish Salad (made with chickpeas), Chili Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Crispy Mushrooms, and Hot Cha-Cha Tofu (a baked sriracha tofu). Her desserts are of the healthier variety, and I really want to try the Orange Creamy, Dreamy Pie (an orange pie made with blended cashews and tofu in a cookie crust) and the Peanut Butter & Chocolate Pudding Pie. There's even a Blueberry-Vanilla Soup with Orange Cream that sounds a little like smoothie bowl. Yum!

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Raw Foods and a Cocktail

As I've mentioned here a few times, I've made it a tradition to stop at the Raw Girls downtown location on days that I go into my office. It's on the way, and it gives me a chance to support an awesome, locally owned, woman-owned, queer-owned business! Oh, and a chance to eat a super healthy lunch. This past Monday, I grabbed their Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with maple-roasted potatoes, walnuts, mixed greens, and the tastiest maple-dijon dressing. This salad, with all those taters, was surprisingly filling.

Last Monday, I picked up one of my long-time Raw Girls' faves — Raw Hummus Toast! They make the best-ever raw flax bread and serve it with hummus, dijon, hot sauce, and homemade pickles. It sounds like a weird combo, but it's divine. 

Since that seemed like a smaller lunch, I also picked up some Raw Oatmeal Cookies to eat with my salad. These had raisins, oats, and lots of almond butter. So tasty and filling!

And finally, here is something that is neither raw nor food. But it's vegan! Art Bar at Crosstown Arts — where I used to work — has always made sure to carry vegan cocktail options, and they just recently added this creamy vegan cocktail. Oodles of Poodles has gin, hibiscus, rice milk, and aqua faba. They may be the only bar in Memphis using aqua faba for frothy drinks, and I am here for it! This cocktail was awesome.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Vegan Block Party on Mud Island

On Saturday, Cynthia Daniels & Co. hosted a free Vegan Block Party on Mud Island. Cynthia organizes Memphis Black Restaurant, an annual week-long highlight of Black-owned restaurants, and that's always a great event. And she's put on a few other vegan events over the years. So I knew this would be great! Plus, the location — inside the Mud Island River Park overlooking the Mississippi River — is such a cool spot. I didn't know what time I'd be finishing my long run on Saturday, so I wasn't sure when I could go to the fest. Otherwise, I would have made plans with friends. But instead, I just went alone after my run.

There were about 20 vegan food vendors — some were food trucks and others had booths. The food truck lines were pretty long when I got there, so I just made my way through the park to the booths. When I saw the Loaded Vegan Nachos on The Vegan Goddess' menu, I knew had to have have that. These had the best jackfruit steak and chicken ever! When I make jackfruit at home, it's always kind of liquidy, but this jackfruit was dry and really had a great texture.

Many of the booth vendors were run by local vegan meal prep services, rather than restaurants. So this was a rare chance to try some food I might not otherwise get to try. I'd probably never subscribe to a meal prep service since I love to cook at home, but the food I tried was stellar. Also, bonus: all of the vendors were Black-owned, which is awesome. 

I ran into a friend while in line for nachos, so I hung out with him for a bit while I ate. And then I decided to get back in a line to grab something for dinner. Loc'd and Vegan's line seemed to be moving pretty quickly, and I saw they had Pad Thai, which would heat up well. So I got that. This was a tasty pad Thai loaded with fresh veggies (lots of red cabbage) and full of flavor. 

After I got my food, I wasn't quite ready to leave yet. So I got in yet another line, this time at the Rich Health booth, for a slice of their Sweet Potato Cake. I'd tried a bite of my friend's cake earlier, and it was SO GOOD. Such a moist cake and not too sweet. I needed more. I sat on the hill overlooking the river and enjoyed my cake in the sunshine. 

What a perfect day! I hope this becomes a regular event!

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Lentil Soup, Tofu Tacos, & Tofu Spaghetti!

Last week, I made Fiona's Feast from The Plant-Based Athlete. It's a lentil soup with potatoes and carrots from Fiona Oakes, a world record-setting marathoner. Very simple recipe and very filling. The instructions said to puree all of the soup, but I like texture so I only pureed half of it.

Last Friday, for pre-run pasta night, I used some leftover baked tofu so I added it to my spaghetti, along with some kale, for Tofu Spaghetti. It wasn't your traditional pasta protein, but it was very tasty! Served with some sprouted grain garlic toast.

Speaking of tofu, I had a free coupon for any Hodo product, but the only Hodo product my Sprouts carries are the Hodo Adobo Mexican Crumbles. So I picked some up and made Adobo Tofu Tacos with vegan cheddar, avocado, and my dad's homemade salsa (which he sent home with me this weekend ... it's so good!).

And finally, here's a not-so-sexy bowl of Savory Cheesy Oats with nooch, broccoli, spinach, toasted walnuts, hemp seeds, and Wicked Foods sriracha (which I got on sale at Kroger!). 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

My Dad's 68th Birthday Weekend!

My dad turned 68 on Sunday! So I drove up to my parents' house in north Arkansas to celebrate on Friday. Here's Papa Crunk blowing out his candle. My mom didn't have a 6 or an 8, but she had a 0 leftover from my 40th, so we used that. Mama made the most delicious Vegan Chocolate Sheet Cake. I love a simple sheet cake.

She also made a yummy dinner of my dad's favorite Southern foods — Vegan Chicken Dressin (she did a meat version for them and vegan for me), Fried Potatoes with Chow Chow, Collard Greens, and Corn.

And she made a Crock Pot full of Beer Beans, which we ate with Vegan Cornbread.

After dinner, my dad opened his presents, which were basically all whiskey. He's easy to buy for!

Family photo time!

My parents recently moved into a new house, and they have a jacuzzi. My mom wanted me to try it out, so she ran me a bubble bath and poured me some champagne. She also added a vegan cherry chocolate bar to the bath tray! Such a luxurious bath!

I spent the night at their house on Friday and then got up early on Saturday to get a 10-miler in before breakfast. Their neighborhood has LOTS of hills and lots of lakes. 

After my run, my mom had breakfast ready. We had Vegan Beignets! I haven't had these since our New Orleans trip years ago when my mom packed homemade vegan beignets for me to enjoy at Cafe Du Monde so I wouldn't feel left out. She's really the best!

She also made Vegan Breakfast Casserole with Just Egg, Beyond Sausage, vegan cheddar, biscuits, and gravy, plus Hash Browns. Sometimes my mom will make a vegan thing for me and a non-vegan version for her and my dad. But this time, we all ate the vegan casserole, and my dad said he couldn't tell the difference. 

Happy birthday, daddy! I love hanging out with my parents!