Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Welcome to Grilling Season!

Memorial Day weekend is one of my favorite food holidays! It marks the official start of grilling season, and I am here for it. There are few things I find more enjoyable than sitting on my back porch, beer in hand and waiting to flip some kabobs or a veggie burger. Grilling makes cooking dinner an event, and I hope to fill my summer with grill-out nights.

On Sunday, Paul and I went shopping and spent about an hour prepping kabobs, fresh corn, asparagus, and mushrooms. He also prepped some meat brats despite my suggestion that he should eat Beyond Brats instead. Oh well. 

I made the Sweet & Spicy Tofu Kebobs from the new Plant You cookbook. These have a srircha-soy-maple marinade, and they were just perfect. I don't know why, but tofu tastes better on a stick. I'll be doing a full post about Plant You soon, but so far, I'm very impressed! We also made corn on the cob, and Paul marinated bella mushrooms and asparagus in some tasty marinade that was both salty and spicy.

On Monday, Paul had to work late, but that didn't stop me from having a grill party for one. I went for a long bike ride in the afternoon, and when I got home, I fired up the grill to cook a Beyond Burger with Follow Your Heart American Cheese and some Wicked Foods Bac-no-naise.

I hope grilling season is off to a great start for you too!

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Empanadas, Ramen, & Pasta Salad

One day last week — before I got stuck at home with COVID — I met a friend at Global CafĂ© at Crosstown Concourse, and we made a meal from the appetizer menu. It was later than I typically eat since I go to bed so early, so I wanted to keep my meal pretty light. I ordered the Vegetable Sambusa, which is supposed to come with two rolls stuffed with potato, bell pepper, carrot, and onion. But it was almost closing time, and they only had one left.

So they subbed out an order of the Vegan Black Bean Empanadas in place of my second sambusa. The empanadas come three to an order, so I got extra food. Yay! I ate one of these that night and saved the rest for a tasty dinner the next day.

I recently came into a bunch of Ocean's Halo coupons, so I got some of their ramen noodles and ramen broth on a BOGO sale. I made some air-fried turmeric tofu and then I used the broth and noodles (along with some frozen veggies) to make a very tasty bowl of ramen. I love the broth! It's a vegan milk broth, which is creamy and delicious.

And finally, here's a tasty Quinoa Tofu Pasta meal from The Plant-Based Athlete. This has quinoa pasta, crumbled tofu, spinach, and sprouts with an olive oil-red wine vinegar sauce. I sprinkled it with some Kelly's Cheezy Parm (a new obsession)! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Some Stuff I Ate When I Had COVID

Well, after almost two and a half years of dodging a bullet, I finally got COVID. I knew it was inevitable at some point, and this new Omicron subvariant is suddenly everywhere, so ... oh well! Last Thursday, Paul started feeling sick after having been exposed to a coworker who was sick. He tested positive on Friday morning, and we tried to isolate him to one bedroom/bathroom. But that was fruitless, and I started feeling funky on Saturday. I took a test, and boom, COVID. 

At first, I just felt a little stuffiness, and I really hoped I'd be one of those lucky people who doesn't have symptoms. But by mid-day Saturday, the alternating fever and chills (and constant headache) kicked in, and we were both stuck in bed watching the latest season of Ozark. Even though I felt awful, I was kinda glad to finally have time to watch Ozark. Sometimes you need the Universe to just tell you sit down. 

I didn't have a super appetite on Saturday, but I did have some Ocean's Halo Vegan Chicken Ramen with added veggies and sriracha tofu.

And lucky me — I stockpiled Amy's No Chicken Noodle Soup back in 2020 just in case of COVID. But I hadn't yet had a reason to eat it. So I had some of that too.

By Sunday, I was feeling slightly better. The fever wasn't constant — just occasional — but the headache was still persistent. And my hunger was back in a big way! All I wanted to do was eat. I figured I needed to make sure I was getting plenty of antioxidants and micronutrients, so I made a Tofu TLT to get some greens in. And I made some fresh green juice to use up some kale, apples, and oranges that I had sitting around. Oh, and I also had lots of pretzels and chips all weekend because, for some reason, I was craving salty, spicy stuff. 

On Monday, I woke up with cold sweats, but the headache was gone. Yay! I took the day off work and laid pretty low so I could keep recovering. We'd finished Ozark by that point, but I started Inventing Anna and we rented Moonfall. Later that night, I made myself a very comforting meal of Beyond Chicken Tenders, Vegan Mac & Cheese, and Sauteed Kale. By the way, I was still starving all day, despite eating at least four (maybe five?) meals. 

Finally, on Tuesday, I woke feeling pretty normal! No fever, headache, cold sweats, or chills. I had (and still have) a very slight scratchiness in my throat, but that's about it. I'm back to work (from home of course). I never lost my tastebuds (THANK GOD CAUSE THAT WAS THE THING I WAS MOST CONCERNED ABOUT), and I didn't have any real respiratory issues. Paul was about the same. So we lucked out, thanks to being vaccinated and boosted! 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Meals from The Blue Zones Solution!

Because I'm a bit obsessed with No Meat Athlete, I've also become a little obsessed with The Blue Zones — Dan Buettner's series of books on the world's longest lived people and how to replicate their healthy habits so we can live past 100. The NMA folks are big Blue Zones fans, and I read Buettner's first book on the five Blue Zones (Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Okinawa, Japan) a while back. Those are the places that have the highest percentage of centenarians. 

One thing all of those places have in common is that the people eat a mostly plant-based diet, so Buettner's next book, The Blue Zones Solution, dives into the eating habits of each country and includes a few recipes. The recipes are not all vegan, but about 3/4ths of them are. I've been cooking my way through the book, and here are a few things I've made.
My very favorite so far was Panchita's Gallo Pinto, a black bean and white rice recipe from centenarian in Nicoya. I served it with Avocado Salsa from the Seventh Day Adventist recipe section (Loma Linda is a Blue Zone because of the plant-based Seventh Day Adventist community there). The avocado salsa was insanely good! It had olive oil, chopped avocado, olives, corn, garlic, onions, and peppers. 

Most of the cultures featured use olive oil pretty heavily, so the recipes are quite different from the oil-free way I've cooked in the past. But hey, if people are using that much olive oil and living past 100, I'm here for it!

The book also includes some very basic recipes, like the general one for dry beans in the slow cooker. I used it to make these White Beans (just beans, herbs, salt, pepper, and water), and they were perfect. I had them with some collards and my mom's homemade vegan chicken dressing (which I had stashed in my freezer).

From the Okinawa section, I tried this Longevity Stir-fry! It has tofu, green beans, mung bean sprouts, and cabbage, and it was very simple and tasty. 

All week this week, I've been eating these Ikarian Baked Chickpeas with Horta. The chickpeas are made from dried beans and then baked with herbs, zucchini, carrots, onion, and olive oil. The Ikarians eat a lot of chickpeas! And they also eat wild greens called horta that are just blanched and drizzled with olive oil. Since we don't have wild greens growing around here, Buettner recommends trying this with kale, which I did. Very tasty and healthy!

Two other things I've made that I don't photos for. The Sardinian White Bean Smash was like hummus without tahini and with lots of garlic. I loved that! And I also tried the basic recipe for Adventist Slow Cooker Oats made with steel cut oats. It was nice to wake up to oats prepared in the slow cooker!

Buettner has since released a whole Blue Zones Cookbook, but I don't have that yet. Definitely on my list! I'm currently reading his book Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, which is about the world's happiest countries (which are not the same as the Blue Zones for longevity. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Cameo

Last night, I met up for happy hour drinks with my "spice girls" — a group of girlfriends from my old job at Crosstown Arts (we each have Spice Girl names; I'm Sporty Spice). We get together once a month or so to catch up as two of us (including me) have left the company that brought us together. This time, we decided to check out the new Cameo bar at The Citizen. I saw they had a few vegan menu items, so I was excited to try some!

For starters, I ordered a Dirty Martini (with vodka, not gin) since it was happy hour, and classic cocktails are $2 off between 4 and 6 p.m. It was an excellently shaken martini, but I did wish they'd added some olives. Oh well. Very tasty!

To eat, I went with the Buffalo Vegan, a sandwich made with buffalo-seasoned lion's mane mushrooms on crusty bread, served with Zapp's Voodoo Chips. The lion's mane mushrooms were chopped pretty finely, and they were topped with a creamy vegan slaw. Bonus point to Cameo for having vegan slaw! I get so annoyed with places that only carry vegetarian slaw (like just use vegan mayo, people! And then everyone can eat it!).

You can also build your own charcuterie board with vegan items, like olives, jams, bread, and pickles (though they don't carry vegan meats or cheeses). I'll probably try that next time.

The space is super-cute and small. Perfect for a lady time happy hour. My only complaint would be taxidermy on the walls. I wish the taxidermy trend would end forever. Pro tip: Sit on the wall side of the booths, and you won't have to look at the dead animal heads.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Chili Cheese Fries, Brats, & Other Tasty Treats

Last Saturday, while I was out on a very hot 13-mile training run, I got a craving for Chili Cheese Fries. It often happens that I crave something decadent during my long runs, and knowing I can have it afterward serves a motivator for me to keep running. So after my protein smoothie and shower, I went to Imagine Vegan Cafe to satisfy that craving. 

Those fries were so good, and the whole box weighed a few pounds, but I ate every bite (and didn't even feel overly stuffed). I guess I needed the calories.

I got an order of Garlic Kale on the side because I know what's good for me.

On Sunday, Paul and I went kayaking in the Mississippi River harbor, and we worked up an appetite. He got a post-kayaking pizza at Wiseacre Brewing Co., but I waited to eat at home (even though they have a vegan pizza) because I had Beyond Brats and corn on the cob waiting. I topped my brat with some sauteed peppers and mushrooms.

Speaking of the abovementioned long run, here's what I ate Friday night to prepare — Spaghetti with Beyond Meat Sauce and Mushrooms. Yum!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Pretty Raw Food & Ugly (But Tasty) Daily Harvest

Most Mondays, I stop by the Raw Girls' downtown Memphis location to grab lunch, which ensures that my Mondays kick off with a healthy start. Last week, I got the Raw Taco Salad with walnut meat, avocado, salsa, and greens. So good and fresh! I love that walnut meat.

And a couple weeks back, I got the Raw Zucchini Pasta with a side of Raw Turmeric-Flax Crackers. The zucchini pasta is just very thinly shaved zucchini with a tasty homemade sauce, so I felt like I needed something to go with it to make it more filling. So I grabbed the raw crackers as a side. I love those crackers!

And now for the ugly stuff. My awesome neighbor Nancy dropped by one day a few weeks back to gift me a couple of Daily Harvest bowls from their subscription. I've heard about Daily Harvest, which ships ready-to-eat, frozen plant-based meals to your door, but I'd never tried them. When I looked at the ingredients of this one, I couldn't imagine how it was all combined and presented. Then I opened it, heated it, and this is what I got. It was sooo tasty and surprisingly filling despite the small size. But it's definitely not pretty. 

Next up, I tried this one. I wasn't sure how it would taste with this ingredient combo.

But it was also really good! The ginger wasn't too strong, and it was also very filling. I probably won't ever subscribe to Daily Harvest because I love cooking my own meals. But these seem like a really healthy and tasty option for someone who either doesn't enjoy cooking or just doesn't have the time. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Pizza, Tacos, & Fried Rice

A few weeks ago, I was passing through my hometown — Jonesboro, Arkansas — and I stopped into their health food store, The Truck Patch, for a few groceries. I found this awesome frozen Barbecue Chick'n Pizza from Blackbird. This was seriously the best frozen pizza ever. The crust was just perfect, and the cheese was Violife (which I love).

Cinco de Mayo was last week, so I whipped up these delicious Seitan & Mushroom Tacos using some homemade seitan from my freezer with packaged taco seasoning and sauteed mushrooms. 

When I visit my parents, like I did last weekend, my mom always sends me home with the leftover vegan items that she uses for dinner and breakfast, so I had about one-third of a bottle of Just Egg leftover. I used that and some tofu, brown rice, and frozen veggies to make this Tofu Egg Fried Rice for lunches this week.

And finally, here's a tasty bowl made with brown rice, sauteed kale, white beans (cooked from scratch), homemade cashew ranch, and some pickled carrots. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Product Review: Barvecue Pulled BVQ

This post is very topical this week since it's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest week in Memphis. Of course, that event is very un-vegan-friendly. But I recently got to sample some Barvecue Pulled BVQ, and I wanted to tell y'all about it. A fellow vegan friend who owns the local Grind City Grocer sent me home with a free package to try. Grind City Grocer is a boutique grocer that mostly sells made-in-Memphis products, but they also carry a few vegan items that aren't local (but aren't sold anywhere else in Memphis).

The Pulled BVQ is soy protein-based, and the texture reminded me a lot of Soy Curls (which I adore!). The chewy protein strips are wood-smoked and then coated in a tangy barbecue sauce that tastes a lot like a classic Memphis 'cue sauce. Barbecue sauce varies by region, but ours is vinegar-y with a touch of sweetness. 

To serve, I whipped up some coleslaw with savoy cabbage and vegan mayo (that's it!) and served on a whole wheat bun. The package said it had six servings, but I made it into three. I like big portions. I made a couple of sandwiches, and I had the last of of the BVQ on a salad with vegan ranch. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Happy Birthday & Mother's Day to My Mama!

My mom's birthday was May 4, and Mother's Day was Sunday, so I drove to my parents' house on Friday for a belated birthday and early Mother's Day celebration. When I arrived, my dad was putting the finishing touches on his famous Baked Nachos! He made me a tray with Beyond meat and vegan cheddar, and then I added every possible topping.

Of course. we had margaritas too!

So good! After dinner, my mom got to open her combined birthday and Mother's Day gifts. I got her a new stock pot and a bunch of Memphis-made snacks and beer, and Paul got her a bottle of nice tequila.

Once our dinner settled, my mom brought out a Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake that she made with Miyoko's cream cheese and vegan condensed milk. It was monkfruit-sweetened, which is awesome since I'm limiting sugar these days.

The next morning, I got up super-early for a 12-mile training run. Their neighborhood is so hilly, so runs there are always tough. But fun! After my run, my mom whipped up some awesome vegan breakfast with Biscuits and Gravy, Just Egg, Beyond Sausage, and Hash Browns. Hit the spot!

My parents moved to a lake house last fall, but it got cold shortly after they moved, so they haven't had a chance to explore the lake yet. But my dad just got a canoe, and my mom and I took it for a spin. I love being on boats more than just about anything.

I love my mama! She is the best!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Flip Side

Memphis has a new pinball pub — Flip Side — and they have vegan options! But you wouldn't know it by looking at the menu. A couple friends and I made plans to meet there for happy hour one day a couple weeks ago, and I looked over their menu, which is sort of Mexican-inspired, but didn't see anything obviously vegan. They did have a number of dishes with fried avocado, but sometimes avo fries are coated with an egg batter. 

So I reached out to Flip Side on Instagram, and their social media person got back with me right away. They said they'd check with the chef, and a bit later, they responded with some vegan options. Turns out the avo fries are made without eggs, and so many dishes that have those can be made vegan so long as you request no cheese and no Flipsauce (their spicy aioli). 

So I went with the Rice Bowl with Avocado Fries (for the bowls, you get your choice of meat or avocado fries). This had cilantro lime rice, black beans, fajita veggies, pico, and corn salsa, plus those awesome avo fries.

It was so good! But I did wish the portion was much bigger. The bowl size was very small. A friend of mind has since gone there and ordered the same ingredients on a burrito with a side of chips and salsa and that was a more filling meal. So next time, I'll try that! You can also get the avo fries on tacos or served over rice as an appetizer. The Calbacitas (with zucchini, squash, peppers, beans, rice, and salad) would also be vegan without the cheese. 

We didn't play pinball on this trip since it was early in the evening, but I can't wait to come back later at night and play a few games. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Product Review: Mmmly Cookies

Last January, after reading by Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, I decided to cut way back on sugar. According to the Sherzais, sugar is a major contributor to Alzheimer's disease, and since dementia runs in my family, I figured there was no time like the present to start watching my sugar consumption. I haven't quit sugar completely (I like vegan donuts too much!), but I try not to take in more than 25 grams a day. And most days, I try to avoid it completely. I've mostly switched to monkfruit as a replacement.

But sometimes, I get a sweets craving and don't feel like blowing my sugar budget. Enter Mmmly Cookies! They sent me a few packs to review as a suggested Mother's Day post (because mom needs healthy cookies!). These cookies are plant-based, grain-free, keto and paleo-friendly, and sweetened with apples. So basically, everyone can eat them!

I first opened the Blueberry Shortbread, and I was immediately impressed by the chewy texture. I love a crunchy cookie sometimes, but I also can't resist a chewy one. The texture was somewhere between a cookie and a protein bar, but they didn't taste so healthy that you'd feel like you were eating a protein bar.

My favorite flavor was the Dark Chocolate Chip though. The chocolate chips in the Mmmly Cookies are sweetened with stevia, so they're healthier too! These were perfect as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea, but they're truly healthy enough to eat for breakfast or before bed if you get a craving.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Korean Mushroom Bowl & a Taco Bell Crunch Wrap!

I had a few coupons for Wicked Foods items, which are kinda pricy, so I figured I should use them before they expired. I got the Korean Style M'shroom Shreds, which are pre-seasoned mushroom shreds that you can use however you want. The package suggested serving with sauteed cabbage and peas over rice, so that's what I did! I sauteed some savoy cabbage with the mushrooms, which had a nice sweet and savory flavor, and then I added peas at the end. I used white rice for this because it just sounded better than brown in this dish. So good! The only thing I didn't like about the Wicked Foods meal kit was that it only made one serving, so I didn't have leftovers. 

My mom picked me up some Upton's Naturals Hot Dogs recently. I love Upton's but hadn't seen their hot dogs for sale anywhere yet. These were really good! I topped mine with mustard and pepperish relish and served with some potato salad on the side.

I follow vegan bodybuilder Nick Squires on Twitter, and the other day, he posted his dinner, which was a stack of Taco Bell Black Bean Crunch Wraps. He famously eats a LOT since he's a bodybuilder, and I love seeing his giant meals. The post got me to craving Crunch Wraps, so one day after a long run, I headed to my neighborhood Taco Bell for a Black Bean Crunch Wrap with no cheese and no sour cream, add guacamole and potatoes. So good. I love how vegan-friendly Taco Bell is! By the way, there's no good way to take a photo of a Crunch Wrap. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Beltane Eats!

Sunday (May 1) was Beltane, but since I was at Beale Street Music Fest all day, I didn't have much time to celebrate. So I pushed my celebration to May 2 (Monday). I started my day with a bowl of Tropical Chia Pudding from the Llewelyn's Sabbats Almanac. This book has recipes for all the Sabbats, and for Beltane, they suggest this chia pudding that's made with coconut milk, chia seeds, cardamom, and vanilla and topped with crushed pineapple, coconut flakes, and banana. It's very spring/summer-y, perfect for Beltane!

For lunch, I grabbed some Raw Zucchini Pasta with pesto from Raw Girls on my way into the office. After a weekend with lots of junk food and beer, this fresh, healthy meal was exactly what I needed. I also got some of their Raw Crackers to eat on the side.

Dinner was a Beltane snack plate with sliced Beyond Sausage, vegan Babybel cheese, oat cakes (a traditional Beltane food), veggies and hummus, and fresh strawberries (another Beltane food). I love snacky dinners like this, especially when accompanied by a glass of red wine. After dinner, I left a few strawberries and some biscotti out for the faeries!

Monday, May 2, 2022

Vegan Food and Fun at Beale Street Music Fest!

After a two-year pandemic break, Memphis in May's Beale Street Music Festival was back this year! We used to go to Music Fest every year, but I skipped the last couple before COVID because the line-up wasn't really impressive to me. But this year, most of the bands were from the 90s, and that's my era. My friend Misti, who lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, made the drive to Memphis, and we saw Memphis rappers Al Kapone and Three 6 Mafia on Friday. Three 6 was definitely one of the highlights for both of us! There are few things I love more than Memphis crunk.

I didn't eat at the fest on Friday since we got there after I'd eaten dinner. But on Saturday, I found some food shortly after we arrived. In years past, the vegan options were few and far between, but this year, they had a few totally vegan vendors. One was Rich Health, where I ordered this Mushroom Madness — waffle fries topped with fried mushrooms, coleslaw, and BBQ sauce. So good!

On Saturday, we saw Toad the Wet Sprocket, Memphis rapper Project Pat and 90s rockers Soul Asylum!

We listened to the Stone Temple Pilots while waiting in a very long beer line (but I didn't mind that we couldn't see them from there; they're not the same without Scott Weiland). Later, we saw part of Death Cab's set before a storm came through and forced an evacuation of the park. The Smashing Pumpkins and Megan the Stallion were scheduled to play at the end, and their sets got pushed back to 1 a.m. By then, we'd already given up and gone home. Oh well.

On Sunday, we got there in time to see the Indigo Girls, and then we headed to the blues tent for a while. Paul was hungry, and there was a burger stand next to the tent. I'd planned to seek out another totally vegan vendor for dinner that night, but I was also hungry and Bubba's Burgers had a Vegan Black Bean and Quinoa Burger, so I went with that because it was easiest. And you know what? It was pretty good. They had a burger fixings bar, and it was fun to add my own toppings. Plus, I like to support non-vegan vendors who have vegan options.

Later, we passed the Rich Health booth again. I wasn't hungry, but I wanted to support them. So I bought their Vegan Peach Cobbler.

We met up with my friend Shara later to see Modest Mouse, and then we headed over to see The Counting Crows. Y'all. This show was so magical. I was most excited about seeing them because I'd never seen them live, and Adam Duritz and the band put on such a good show. I missed most of Weezer to see the Counting Crows, and that was kind of a bummer (who decided to schedule those two at the same time?), but I've seen Weezer several times.

We had a great weekend! I'm running on fumes today after a weekend with lots of fun and not enough sleep, but it was worth it.