Thursday, September 21, 2023

Cuban Brunch, OG Pizza, and Homemade Hot Dogs

A couple weeks back, Paul's nephew Jeff was in town, visiting Memphis from Missouri. We took him out to Wiseacre Brewing for beers and pizza, and I ordered The Slightly, the only vegan pizza on the menu. This is a traditional Pizza Marinara, which is naturally vegan. It has sauce, garlic, olive oil, basil, and Calabrian chilis, and it's really good! I'm normally a vegan cheese kinda gal, but I occasionally enjoy this more authentic pizza.

The next morning, we went to The Liquor Store (which is a restaurant, not a liquor store) for brunch. And I ordered my usual there, the Cuban Platter. It has the best seasoned black beans with rice, sauteed veggies, and plantains. LOVE those plantains!

Here's a recent meal from Black Lodge, a movie rental shop (yes, Memphis still has one!) and event space. They also have a cafe with vegan options, and this was my first time ordering the Lisa Simpson (two tofu hot dogs served in white buns with sauteed carrots, fried onions, barbecue sauce, and avocado). Is this stoner food? Absolutely! But it's good. The "dogs" are just seasoned slabs of tofu, so it felt pretty healthy except for all the white bread. 

And here's something I made at home: Whatever Grain Porridge from Bad Manners: Brave New Meal. This is a breakfast bowl made from oatmeal, millet, and quinoa, and the recipe suggests serving it with maple syrup, fruit, and nuts. But I prefer savory porridge, so I added nooch, olive oil, and tofu eggs. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Purple Carrot Fun!

My friend Melissa recently moved from Memphis to Florida, and she didn't get her address changed on her Purple Carrot subscription in time. So last week, a box was delivered to her old house, and she told me I could have it. So I drove by her empty house and stole it off the porch! I've never subscribed to a meal delivery service, so this was fun.

Here's a peek inside the box.

The first thing I tried was the Spicy Southwest Mac. This had cavatappi pasta, vegan shreds, Miyoko butter, onion, roasted red peppers, and pickled jalepenos with a pepita-nooch topping. This was SO good. I always forget how much I love cavatappi pasta, and the creamy, cheesy roux was perfect.

A couple complaints: The onion was rotten (luckily, I had plenty in the pantry), and the garlic was missing. Now, I'm not really complaining because it was free, but before I realized these two flaws, I thought I might consider subscribing. But considering the cost, those two things would be dealbreakers. And there was another big flaw, which I'll get to later. 

I served the pasta with charred broccoli and some Morningstar Farms Pringles Chick'n Fries.

Next up, I tried the Charred Corn Salad. I rarely deviate from the traditional green salad with whatever veggies I have on-hand. But I really loved the intentionality of these ingredients: charred corn and zucchini, shallot vinaigrette, avocado, cashews, dried chiles, and vegan tzatziki. A great salad!

But the mixed greens that came with the box went bad by the second day they were in the fridge. So I went out and bought fresh mixed greens at the grocery store. Another strike against me ever subscribing.

Finally, I made the Black Pepper Tofu dish a couple nights ago. And this was perfect. Spicy, cornstarch-coated tofu with scallions and celery, served over brown rice with a side of sauteed gai lan. No complaints here at all, and the ingredients stayed fresh. I especially loved the Hodo extra-firm tofu that came in the box. No pressing needed!

Overall, the meals were fantastic. And I'm glad the box came with a recipe book with extra recipes because I'm convinced the chefs who develop Purple Carrot know what they're doing. The only complaint was the freshness of the produce. If I was someone who hated grocery shopping and meal planning, I might still subscribe, even despite the produce issues. But I really love doing those things, so I probably won't be. But this was still so much fun!

Monday, September 18, 2023

Vada, Dosa, Idli, and Samosa Burgers

I love Indian food, perhaps more than any other international cuisine. And a week or so ago, I found myself way out east near Kirby and Quince by Mayuri. It's one of the few local Indian restaurants that serves both North and South Indian food. Most of the Indian places in Midtown, where I live, offer North Indian food, which isn't my fave. I love all the South Indian stuff, like dosa, idli, and vada. And wouldn't you know it? Mayuri has a combo — called the Mayuri Combo — with all those things! So I ordered it!

It came with one vada (the savory fried lentil doughnut), one idli (the steamed rice and lentil cake), sambar (vegetable soup), and a giant masala dosa stuffed with seasoned potatoes. A perfect lunch!

Speaking of Indian food, I recently made the Samosa Burgers from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. These are samosa filling without the deep-fried shell. And yes, the shell is the best part, but I certainly felt less weighed down after eating the burger minus the fried part. It was great topped with some jarred cilantro-mint chutney. And on the side, I made some Curried Red Lentils with coconut milk and a bit of papad for dipping. 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Labor Day Burger, Sticky Tofu, and Corncakes

Labor Day is supposedly the end of grilling season, but it stays warm here in Memphis through mid-November, so last Monday certainly wasn't our last day to grill. But still yet, we grilled! I made some Everything Legendary Vegan Cheeseburgers (the cheese is inside the patty!), but I still topped it with a Tofutti slice. On the side we had grilled corn and mushrooms.

A friend from the Plant-Based Morning Show Discord group recently sent me her copy of Bad Manners: Brave New Meal. I love those cookbooks with all the cussing. They're fun! The first thing I've made from the book was the Sweet-Sticky Tofu, which has cornstarch-coated tofu tossed with a tangy-sweet sauce. It was lovely. I always forget how much I love cornstarch on fried tofu. 

And finally, here's a fun Costa Rican breakfast from The Blue Zones Kitchen. I made these Sweet Corncakes by blending corn with a little sugar and salt. That was supposed to be it, but the batter didn't cook up for me. So I stirred in a little whole wheat flour, and that was perfect. Like corn pancakes! They made for a nice brunch with black beans and avocado. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Air-fried Wontons, Nachos, and Gnocchi

I found some Nasoya wonton wrappers on closeout a Kroger a few weeks back, and I already had Tofutti cream cheese in my freezer, so I figured I'd make Cream Cheese Wontons and Tofu Fried Rice for dinner one night. But I really don't love deep frying at home, so I air-fried the wontons. 

And they turned out really tasty. The ends got a little extra brown in the fryer, but they didn't taste burned or anything. A friend on Instagram suggested adding little foil bonnets on the top next time to ensure more even cooking. I'll try it!

Speaking of closeout sales, Big River Market downtown closed a few weeks ago, and they had everything in the store marked down. So I finally bought a jar of the Vegan Valley Nacho Cheeze sauce that was originally priced at $11. I wasn't going to pay that much for a jar of cashew cheese, but it was $7-something with the discount. Still kinda high, but I wanted to try it on Black Bean Nachos. And I did that on Taco Tuesday last week. It's good! Maybe not $7 good, but I'm glad I got to try it.

Here's some Trader Joe's Cauliflower Gnocchi with red sauce and garlic sourdough bread. I love that TJ's caul-gnocchi.

But I think my new favorite TJ's product is this microwave meal of Vegetable Biryani with dumplings! Can you believe this (just the rice part) was a frozen dinner? It was a lot of food, and the rice so fluffy. Tasted way better than most frozen meals. I enjoyed it with a paratha and some cilantro chutney. 

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Mushroom Barbacoa, Banh Mi, Burritos, & Bubble Tea

Here's a round-up of some recent takeout meals I've eaten. I stopped into Lulu's Cafe and Bakery last Friday for my usual end-of-week lunch there, and they had this Mushroom Barbacoa Sandwich on the menu. The mushrooms were finely chopped and slow-simmered in barbacoa sauce, and there were fermented jalapenos and a tasty spread (though I'm not sure what was in it). This ended up being an open-faced sandwich because it was just too messy to eat the normal way. 

After my sandwich, I got Lulu's seasonal Virgo Bubble Tea to go. I added a shot of espresso because I had a very early morning (3 a.m.!) and I needed a pick me up.

Here's another awesome sandwich I recently ate. A couple weeks back, I stopped by Le Delights in Cordova and got some takeout to share with my friend Autumn. Le Delights has an amazing Vegan Banh Mi with tofu ham!

And finally, here is a Mushroom and Potato Burrito from El Toro Loco. El Toro is not a vegan-friendly place, at all. They don't even have veggie fajitas on the menu, but I went there with some friends after we ran a beer mile together. And there were three vegans in our group. One friend crafted this burrito off-menu, and I just told the server, "I'll have what he's having." And it was not bad! You can really find something vegan anywhere with a little creativity. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Ramen Night!

A couple weeks back, I met up with some hasher friends at Good Fortune, a very vegan-friendly ramen place. We were planning an October run that we're haring with Memphis Hash House Harriers, and that's another story for another time. But here's what we ate. First, we started with almost every vegan appetizer on the menu (minus the Impossible spring rolls, which are great, but were only three people). Here are the Tofu Bites with vegan honey butter, the Charred Edamame with chili-citrus salt, and the Impossible Dumplings (exactly what it sounds like, and they're amazing).

We also got an order of the Kimchi, which is the best I've ever had. It was my first time trying their kimchi.

For my main, I went with the new (to me) Street Corn Mazeman. They always have at least three vegan ramen bowls on the menu, but some change out with the seasons. This one was new since the last time I'd eaten there. And it may be my favorite. It's more of a butter noodle dish than a brothy ramen. But it has Good Fortune's homemade noodles, corn off the cob, a vegan miso butter, fried tofu, and radishes. God, I could eat that again right now!

Thursday, August 31, 2023

End-of-Summer Supper!

Every year, toward the end of summer, my mama makes a giant Southern supper with all the fried, fresh seasonal veggies. It’s one of my favorite traditions. We’d planned the meal this year for late July, but my parents ended up getting Covid. Boo! So we had to reschedule.

That rescheduled dinner was this past Friday. I made the drive to my parents’ house in Arkansas, and dinner was already on the stove. We had Fresh Purple Hull Peas and Cornbread, Fried Summer Squash, Fried Green Tomatoes, Air-fried Okra, Fried Potatoes with Chow Chow, and Buttered Corn off the Cob. And on the side, we had sweet tea. This is the one time per year I actually drink sweet tea (even though I love it).

After dinner, my parents’ neighbors took us on a pontoon ride around their lake, and then we came back in the house for dessert: Vegan Lemon Icebox Pie! Lemon desserts are my favorite. I’ll take that over chocolate anyday.

The next morning, I got in an early 12-mile run in the Ozark foothills (talk about some hill work!) before brunch. And then we had these awesome Breakfast Bowls. The base was seasoned rice, and that was topped with hash brown rounds, Impossible sausage, Just Egg, and Violife vegan cheddar. The Violife doesn’t always melt, but that’s okay! This was so good.

And that wasn’t all. We also had Biscuits and Gravy on the side. A fantastic post-run brekky!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Book Review: The Vegan Athlete's Nutrition Handbook

If there's one thing I love more than running, it's eating. So naturally, I love to nerd out about performance nutrition. The day before a long run or race, I try to focus on specific foods that I believe will give me an edge, and I'm a big nerd about during-run and post-run nutrition, too. When I got a chance to review the new Vegan Athlete's Nutrition Handbook by Nichole Dandrea-Russert, I jumped at the chance.

This book is loaded with information on what to eat for plant-based performance with in-depth chapters on each macro (carbs, protein, fats), fiber, and hydration. Plus, there are entire chapters on key micronutrients: one for calcium, one for vitamin D, etc. I was really impressed that each nutrient got its own chapter, and the author includes tips on how to get more of each into your diet.

But the book goes beyond nutrition with looks at how sleep and supplements can help your performance as well. Plus, there are sample vegan athlete meal plans at different calorie levels and tips on creating your own meal plan.

Best of all though are the recipes! So far, I've tried three things. The Loaded Lentil and Mexican Corn Bowl was a totally whole-foods, plant-based meal with taco-seasoned lentils, baked sweet potatoes, raw massaged kale, fresh jalapenos, fresh red cabbage, and avocado. A very filling meal with lots texture and flavor. You can never go wrong with a bowl like this, and bonus: The leftovers made for a great burrito!

I also made the Glycogen-Restoring Black Rice Salad. This had an Asian flair with a miso-soy sauce-sesame dressing flecked with lots of raw garlic. I never know what to do with black rice, but I always have some lurking in the pantry. Also, the recipe didn't call for tofu, but I added some baked teriyaki tofu for extra protein.

The last thing I tried was the Recovery Smoothie, and I don't have a photo because I can never remember to take photos of my post-run smoothies. But it had soymilk, banana, mixed berries, spinach, hemp seeds, apple, and peanut butter. Plus, I added some Complement protein for extra post-run protein.

Other recipes I want to try: the Long, Slow, and Steady Tempeh Farro Bowl (tempeh, lots of veggies, farro, and cashew cheese), Plant-powered PR Meatballs (made with lentils and quinoa), and the Warrior Breakfast Bowl (a savory bowl with quinoa, veggies, and hummus).

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Tempeh Nuggs, Fava Beans, & Caprese Pasta

I recently made the Baked Tempeh Nuggets from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook as part of my quest to make every recipe from the book. These were very tasty! They're seasoned in a marinade and then coated in breadcrumbs and baked. And they're really taste dipped in the creamy hemp dressing from the book. Served with Wicked Foods BBQ Mac & Cheese and broccoli because I love a toddler meal.

I picked up a can of Fava Beans in Tahini Sauce at an Indian market in Little Rock. This is basically canned ful medames, which is a really tasty African and Middle Eastern dish. There was a Middle Eastern restaurant near my house that closed years ago, and it served the best ful medames with a vegan garlic sauce that's very similar to the Trader Joe's garlic sauce. So I added some of that! And I had kale, kraut, and paratha. A very multi-cultural meal!

And finally, here's a tasty Easy Caprese Pasta from The Fiber Fueled Cookbook. It's got homemade tofu feta with roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and balsamic. I had some sourdough toast with vegan Boursin cheese spread and kalamata olive spread. A perfect night-before-my-run meal.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Spam Sushi and Samosas

But not together! That would be weird. Anyway, I've had a half-pack of OmniPork vegan luncheon meat (aka vegan Spam) in the deep freezer for awhile, so I decided to make Spam Sushi with it last week! These salty, meaty filets were perfect sushi filling because they added a salty bite to the otherwise sweet-tangy sushi rice and crisp cucumbers. 

A perfect use for this spam, by the way. I had the other half of the pack in a spam hash awhile back, and it was good. But I think this was better!

Here's a bowl of Khatti Dal that I made from Plant-Based India last week. This uses masoor dal, and it has a tangy (almost sour) flavor. It's made creamy with a little vegan soy yogurt. Really good, though not my favorite dal from the book, admittedly. 

On the side, I had some Trader Joe's Vegetable Samosas with a cilantro chutney that I bought at an Indian market. These TJ's samosas are a new fave. I've picked them up and put them back on just about every trip to TJ's over the years. I don't know I never went through with buying them, but I'm so glad I finally did. I'll be stocking up on these with every trip now!

Monday, August 21, 2023

IKEA Eats!

I rarely get out to IKEA because it's just such a big event. The store is huge, and I like to spend a couple hours browsing. Plus, it's best when I actually need something from there instead of going to blow money on things I don't need.

But I needed two new lamps to replace a couple lamps that I was tired of. And so, a couple Fridays ago, I spent the better part of a day at IKEA. And of course, that meant lunch in the cafe! Since my last trip there, pre-pandemic, IKEA has come out with new Plant Balls, which are made with pea protein. They're meatier than the Veggie Balls, and I was excited to try them. The selection of sides is rather random, but I went with a veggie medley and black beans. Kind of a Mexican meatball meal. Ha!

Weird, but good! And of course, I picked up some Plant Balls and Lignonberry Jam from the Swedish grocery area to bring home. Swedish meatballs will be on my menu soon!

I also got a bag of the Veggie Dogs for the house. They sell these for $1 in the cafe, and I've had them there before. But on my last trip, they weren't available in the frozen section as a take-home thing. I picked up a jar of their Mustard & Dill Sauce to serve on the dogs at home.

Love these! They're basically the same as the Veggie Balls but shaped like hot dogs. They're fairly low-cal and low-protein, so when I eat them at home, I've been having two at a time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Veggie Hoagies, Dosa, & More!

I've mentioned this about 500 times before, but I'm on a years-long quest to make every recipe in the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. I swear I'm getting close. I only had about three recipes left in the entrees chapter, and one of those was this Veggie Hoagie. So now I'm down to two. Though I still have a number of sides, desserts, and athletic performance recipes to go!

For this, I made my own sourdough baguette with my new baguette pan. It was my first time trying any shape besides a boule. I still need to work on it because my baguettes were a little misshapen, but they tasted great. The inside of the hoagie was stuffed with artichokes, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, onion, pesto, and balsamic vinegar. 

I also tried making from-scratch dosa for the first time using the Simplified Dosa recipe from the Fiber Fueled Cookbook. The insides were stuffed with curry potatoes. For this, you ferment the batter for 24 hours, which was pretty cool. I couldn't get my dosa to be paper-thin like the restaurants do, but it was still very tasty. I had some Trader Joe's mini Veggie Samosas on the side.

Here's a recent Lulu's Brekky Sando with tofu egg, cashew cheese, and red pepper bacon. The bacon changes based on what veggies are in season.

I enjoyed that with an iced Tropic of Cancer Latte with coconut and lime. Those aren't flavors you'd expect in a coffee drink, but it worked! And it hit the spot on a very hot day.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Lammas Eats

Lammas (also known as Lughnasadh) was August 1. It's one of the three harvest holidays celebrated by modern-day pagans, and it's all about the bread. There's also a Christian holiday called Loaf Mass — one of those stolen holidays from back in the day when the Christians took all the pagan holidays and made them something else. Couldn't they just come up with their own holidays? But I digress.

I celebrated on August 1 with bread, of course! I've been baking my own sourdough for about a year now, and I recently got some baguette pans so I could try a new shape. Before, I'd only made boules. There was a recipe in the Llewelyn's Sabbats Almanac for Sausages and Tomatoes on Bread that sounded really good, so I veganized it with Field Roast apple-sage sausage, farmer's market cherry tomatoes, and my baguette slices. The sausage and tomatoes are all roasted together and mixed with lots of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. So good!

For dessert, I made a Blackberry Cobbler from that same book. It was a naturally vegan recipe, so that was easy. 

This was a super cakey cobbler with a thick layer of soft cake atop mixed berries. Best enjoyed with a scoop of Coco Whip on top. I brought the leftovers to work to share with co-workers, and it was a hit!