Thursday, December 28, 2023

Christmas Recap!

On Christmas Eve, Paul and I each went to our respective parents' houses — his in Nashville, mine in Arkansas. I got there just in time for Christmas Eve dinner, which was Vegan Chicken & Dumplins with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans. 

We don't have a traditional meal every year for Christmas Eve. It's just whatever my mom wants to cook, but I love her dumplins so much! And I was very excited for this meal!

Here's a family photo by the lake.

What is traditional for us is Christmas breakfast. When my Granny was alive, my dad's side of the family (plus, my Me-maw; that's mama's mom) would gather at her house, and she'd make a big ole breakfast. She always burned the biscuits. That was a tradition, too! Since she died, my mom has taken up the breakfast tradition, though it's just the three of us now. Me-maw is still around, but she lives an hour away from my parents now. 

This year, Christmas Breakfast looked like this. 

There seems to be a national Just Egg shortage, and my mom and I couldn't find the bottled eggs anywhere. I did find the folded egg patties in Memphis though, so I brought those for us to have. They're good, but I still prefer the bottled kind for meals like this and the folded for sandwiches, but having them was better than nothing. We also had biscuits and gravy, Impossible sausage biscuits, Field Roast sausages, and hash browns.

After breakfast, we opened presents. I got a bidet! And then I headed back to Memphis. Paul got home around 6 p.m.-ish, and then we opened gifts with each other and the pets. Check out this Funko Pop that I had made to look like Paul!

Maynard got new chew toys and this Nylabone that he hasn't touched since he opened it. Ha!

I hope you had a merry Xmas!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Goodbye Forever, Pho Binh!

Y'all, Memphis has lost a local legend. Pho Binh, a locally famous, family-run Vietnamese place best-known for its "Memphis-style tofu," closed its doors on Christmas Eve. 

Pho Binh opened in 2000, just a couple years before I moved to Memphis in 2002. I ate there for the first time in 2004, with my friend Greg. Greg was a brand-new friend then; today, he's one of my best friends of 19 years. Greg and I were headed to see Rent at the Orpheum, and we stopped in for a quick dinner. He told me to get the Green Bean Tofu, his personal fave, so I did. And I kept coming back. 

On that first visit, we were there for dinner, but I soon learned that Pho Binh had a $5 lunch buffet with all-you-can-eat tofu! Remember this was 2004, so $5 went further back then. But Pho Binh's lunch buffet soon became a staple for me. I quickly learned that Pho Binh was a meeting place of hipsters and office workers, families and artists, weirdos and normies. Everyone came together for Memphis-style tofu. And though that Green Bean Tofu was good, the Lemongrass Tofu quickly became my favorite. That and the Curry Tofu, the Tofu Pho, and the Mushroom Tofu! (By the way, Pho Binh served meat, too, but they were famous for their tofu.)

During the pandemic, Pho Binh closed the buffet and became a takeout-only spot, and that continued until this past weekend. A few years back, I interviewed Tam Nyugen, one of the sisters who owned the restaurant with their mother and brother, for Edible Memphis magazine. And she told me then that Pho Binh would probably close when their mom was ready to retire. And well, that day has come. 

On Dec. 23, Pho Binh posted that they would close on Christmas Eve "when the tofu runs out." I made a quick and desperate order of Lemongrass and Green Bean Tofu — both chosen for old time's sake. And I saved that for my Christmas dinner.

I have enough tofu left in the fridge for one more meal tomorrow, and that's it. Goodbye, dear tofu. 

As for what's next, Pho Binh sold their space to another Vietnamese restaurant, and the family shared their recipes with the new owner. So hopefully, they'll keep some of the old faves on the menu! But no matter what, it won't have the same Pho Binh love cooked in. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Plant You Holiday Cooking!

Plant You author Carleigh Bodrug has a new book coming out in April, Scrappy Cooking, that's focused on sustainable meals and Earth-friendly recipes that make use of things we would otherwise throw out. I love her Scrappy Cooking video series, so I preordered this immediately. And with that preorder came lots of bonuses. She sent several e-books, and a couple weeks back, there was a live holiday cooking class.

I didn't attend the live, but it was recorded, so I had my own cooking class from the video a few days later. She sent recipes for holiday meals, and then we cooked along with her. It was fun! I made this Meaty Wellington, which was stuffed with seasoned lentils and mushrooms. The whole thing was wrapped in flaky phyllo. This would be a lovely holiday centerpiece!

On the side, we made the best Au Gratin Potatoes. The key to these was slicing very thinly on a mandolin. The cheese sauce was nooch- and cashew-based and very creamy.

And for dessert, we made a Mud Pie. This was a basic tofu chocolate mousse pie, and it was very rich. I would probably serve with vegan whipped cream if I made this again.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Girl Dinner, Crunch Wrap, & the Best Vada

I've been slowly hoarding frozen vegan appetizers. Not on purpose. I just keep finding good stuff when I'm grocery shopping. But then I never know when to eat it. Seems like game day food, but our Memphis Grizzlies basketball games typically start at 7 p.m., which is past my usual dinner time. So, I decided to have an appetizer-filled girl dinner just because. To make it a little healthier, I made the Buffalo Cauliflower Wings from Plant You. These are wrapped with rice paper and baked in the oven, so you get a crispy chicken-like skin. And the rest of the plate had Wholly Veggie's Cheddar Style JalapeƱo Sticks, Amy's Vegan Pizza Rolls, and Morningstar Farms Pringle Chicken Fries. Yum!

Shroomlicious, the Memphis vegan mushroom takeout spot, has a Crunch Wrap on the menu that puts Taco Bell to shame. It has a mushroom meat stuffing with vegan cheese and taco sauce, and it's very messy. And very, very good!

One day a couple weeks back after a lot of indulgence, I made this Kitchari from a Plant Strong recipe. It had brown rice instead of the usual white rice, so it felt extra healthy.

And speaking of Indian food, I was out near the Hacks Cross Road area, where all the good Indian food in Memphis is, so I stopped into Mayuri for some to-go Vada with Chile and Onion. This wasn't the traditional vada on the menu but rather a variation stuffed with veggies, and it was so good with hot sauce and coconut chutney. Vada is my very favorite Indian snack!

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Stuff I Ate Before and After a Half-Marathon

A couple weeks ago, I PR'd my half-marathon by three minutes at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. 

It's my favorite local race, and it's always a blast. Last year, I PR'd my full marathon there! After the race, I headed to the Memphis Hash House Harriers cheer station to hand out beer to the marathoners still on the course. 

And then some of us hashers went to Crosstown Brewing, where vegan food truck Da Guilty Vegan was on-site! I rarely get to eat at Da Guilty Vegan because they're usually parked in Cordova, but the owner, Chef Derek, let me know they'd be in my area after the race. I was starving by then, so I got the Nikki's Cheesesteak with Beyond beef and mushrooms. Hit the spot!

And then, because Chef Derek is awesome, he came over to our table and handed me a free Double Smashburger! I was already full, so I took this home and reheated it in a skillet for lunch the next day. It was amazing even reheated!

Before the race, I spent three days diligently carb-loading. I've never focused so much on carb-loading as I did this time, but I listened to a podcast about it and used this carb-loading calculator to determine how many carbs I needed in the days ahead of the race: 393! Each day! It was a lot, and I struggled each day to reach that. I only hit the number one day, the others came to about 350. In that time, I ate a lot of pasta and rice, including this white rice-heavy Veggie Tofu Stirfry. I had this two days before the race, and in the final pre-race day, I cut out most fiber to prevent race day GI issues.

I also had several bowls of this tasty Veggie Goulash adapted from Nava Atlas' Vegetarian Soup for All Seasons. The recipe called for seitan, but I used Impossible burger because Paul wanted to eat this too, and he prefers Impossible. I also added the pasta, which wasn't in the recipe. Really good and made a ton!

In the end, the carb-loading plan worked! So, I'll be doing that again before my next goal race!

Monday, December 11, 2023

Cookies and Cheese and Latkes! Oh My!

Here's a little holiday-themed round-up. A couple weeks ago, The Daily Memphian office (the newspaper where I work) hosted an staff cookie baking competition, and I entered these Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. My coworkers know I'm vegan, but the baked goods were entered into the contest somewhat anonymously. So I didn't add "vegan" to the label. And guess what?! I won!! Everyone on staff who was in the office that day got a vote, and I somehow got the most. And that feels like a win for veganism!

Julie Piatt's vegan cheese company, SriMu, is now open in Memphis! I'm not 100% sure if the wine and cheese cafe is serving yet, but you can definitely go in and buy the wheels of cheese. I stopped in recently and got the Everything, Fire, and Imagine.

And I used some of that cheese to make a holiday Girl Dinner Snack Plate to munch on while I put up the holiday tree. I love dinners like this when I'm putting up the tree. It's a tradition I stole from my friend Sheridan.

And speaking of holidays, it's Hanukkah! And I'm not Jewish, but I love latkes, so I always make them every year. This time, I used a recipe that we ran in The Daily Memphian. I subbed out The Vegg baking mix for the eggs and used flour in place of matzo meal.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Vegan Egg Avo Toast and Shroomlicious News!

Imagine Vegan Cafe has started selling YoEgg's vegan fried eggs in their freezer case. They come two to a package, and I picked up a box on my last visit there. I'd tried the YoEgg on a breakfast burger special offered at Imagine awhile back, but the flavors melded with all of the other burger fixings. I was excited to try this on its own. Or, well, on Avocado Toast. 

I've seen fried eggs on avo toast all over the internet for years, but since I've been vegan long before I even knew what avocado toast was (I went vegan in 2004), I'd never been able to try it. Finally! The YoEgg has a runny yolk, and they really nailed the texture of fried eggs. Fried eggs were really my favorite thing back in my pregan days. I enjoyed this over the avo toast, but once I got to the yolk, it became a fork meal for sure.

I made this really fun Indian Namkeen (aka snack mix) from Vegan Treasures of India. It had fox nuts (which are kind of like that puffed corn snack) and other nuts with Indian spices and curry leaves. This was so good!

These Stuffed Bell Peppers from Tabitha Brown's Cooking from the Spirit were easy and delicious. They were stuffed with Field Roast sausage, mushrooms, spinach, onions and garlic, and they're topped with black olives, vegan cheddar and avocado. I love her book because there are no measurements, just ingredients. So you're truly cooking from the spirit!

And finally, here's the Shroomlicious news! This vegan mushroom-forward, takeout-only spot has moved to the old Midtown Crossing Grill space, which is super-convenient for me. And it has a dining space, so they're working to eventually be open for dine-in. They've also expanded their hours to include Wednesdays and Sundays, and I'm here for all that. Thursdays are Taco Thursdays, and they have Mini Street Tacos for just $2 each. This whole meal — with both their OG taco and Korean tacos — was less than $10. What a deal!

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Tan Tan Ramen and Best-ever Potato Flatbread

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that Cameo was the place to go in Memphis for the best cocktails. They also always have vegan options on their small food menu, though they change seasonally. I met my friend Pam there for dinner a few weeks back, and the vegan Baked Potato Flatbread was on the menu. And well, it was the best ever. Just look at it!

It had potato chunks, vegan cheese, vegan bacon bits, aioli, and — wait for it — crumbled barbecue potato chips. That was the highlight there. Took it to the next level. This was a big, but I ate every bite. Would eat again and again, though I doubt it'll be on the menu much longer.

Good Fortune, my favorite ramen spot, serves a mean vegan Tan Tan Ramen, so I tried making the dish at home using a recipe from The Edgy Veg. I found the recipe in an e-book put out by my supplement company, Complement. This had tofu and veggies, but what made it different was the peanut butter and chili oil broth. Really good, but I could never make ramen as good as what's served at Good Fortune.

Here's another recipe from that e-book: BBQ Chicken and Coleslaw Wraps from the Whole Food Plant Based Cooking Show. It had BBQ soy curls tucked into a wrap with a simple slaw. Quick and easy!

A few weeks back, Octavia Young, the former owner of now-closed Midtown Crossing Grill, had a brunch pop-up at Crosstown Brewing Co. She always provided vegan options at her restaurant, which I miss dearly. And her pop-up menu had them, too. I had the Vegan Smoked Greens with Corn Pancakes. Soul food at its finest.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Black Friday Best Friend Time!

I really meant to post this last week as a follow-up to my Thanksgiving post, but things just got really busy. From October through December is my crazy time, when it feels like there's something happening every night of the week. Anyone feel that this time of year? It always starts way before Christmas for me.

Anyway, on Black Friday, my 19-year veganaversary (!!!), my BFF Sheridan came to visit. She had been in Jonesboro (our hometown) for Thanksgiving, so she popped over to Memphis before heading home to Little Rock. Plant Based Heat was doing a Black Friday special on their Oyster Mushroom Burger, so we both got those to go. It was just $10 with a side of fries. And then we took them to Memphis Made Brewing to eat. The "burger" was really just deep-fried mushrooms on a bun, and it was really good!

After dinner, we headed to Cameo for cocktails. I got an excellent Old Fashioned. Cameo is the place to go in Memphis if you want a great cocktail.

Next up: Flip Side for pinball! 

The next day, we went to Lulu's Cafe and Bakery for breakfast before Sheridan went home. We both got the Breakfast Sammy with tofu egg, cashew cheese, and smoked red peppers on a made-in-house sourdough bun. It's a classic Lulu's item that's always on the menu. You can typically get it on a bun or bagel, but they were out of bagels.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Thanksgiving Eats!

Sorry it's been awhile since my last post. Last week was just extra busy with the holiday (and all the work that had to be done before the holiday since I'd be off work for a few days). On Thanksgiving, Paul and I went to my me-maw's house in Arkansas. And my parents met us there, too. Her house is about halfway for both my parents (coming from north Arkansas) and Paul and I (coming from Memphis.)

My mom made most of the meal: Tofurky, her famous dressing, hash brown casserole, and coleslaw. I brought homemade sourdough rolls, roasted brussels and acorn squash, and cranberry sauce. And me-maw made the corn and green beans. 

I love, love, love Thanksgiving because these are my favorite foods. Casseroles! Fake meat! Yes! I enjoyed this gigantic plate but somehow saved room for dessert.

That dessert was vegan chocolate lasagna! I'd never had this before, but I want my mom to make it again and again. It had a base of Oreos and was topped with vegan chocolate pudding and whipped cream. This may have trumped banana pudding to become my favorite dessert.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Hot Springs Vegan Eats + Hash Fest

Over the weekend, I traveled with the Memphis Hash House Harriers (our little running and drinking club) to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the annual Little Rock Hash Fest. Hot Springs is about 30 minutes outside Little Rock, but it's much prettier since it's closer to the Ozarks. We stayed at the historic Arlington Hotel and had a couple fun pub crawls through the town. Here we are on Saturday for the Red Dress Run. Everyone — men and women — had to wear a red dress to participate.

I won't bore you with the hash weekend details. Just know there was plenty of beer, pub crawling, and hot tubbing and very little running. I'm really here to tell you about the food! When I arrived on Friday, I quickly realized that I did not want to move my car all weekend since I found a free street parking spot (the hotel's parking would have been $42 for the weekend, so I lucked out!). 

Luckily, there was vegan food in walking distance. Right across the street from the Arlington, I found Rolando's, a Mexican restaurant with some Cuban and Argentinian dishes. I ordered the Guac Tostada with no cheese (the server told me they had a dairy-free button in their ordering system, so that made it easy). This had crunchy tostadas with lots of guac, pickled veggies, and Cuban black beans and rice. Really good. Very guac-y!

The next morning, my friend Kenzie, who had stayed in Hot Springs recently, took some of our group on a little walk to Kollective Coffee + Tea. This place was very vegan-friendly and definitely the highlight of my food experience there! I got the Everything Bagel with Vegan Cream Cheese, Tempeh Bacon, Tomato, and Roasted Red Pepper. You got to build your own bagel sandwich, and they had lots of vegan stuff to choose from.

For lunch that day, I just had some ramen noodles I brought in the hotel room. I didn't really want to cut into hot tub time by venturing out on foot for food.

I found dinner during the Red Dress Run. Our first beer stop was at Cafe Kahlo, and it was about 5-ish, so I figured I'd better order food while I could. They had a Veggie Burrito that was easy to make vegan without cheese. It was simple and not too exciting, but it was vegan, so that worked.

Here's some of the Memphis folks at Cafe Kahlo!

On Sunday, most of our Memphis group was hitting the road back home before the "hangover trail," so I walked back over to Kollective for brunch. This time, I got the Vegan Gyro, which had a really tasty vegan meat. I couldn't tell what it was, but it may be Beyond Steak. That was topped with a creamy vegan tzatziki and served with sweet potato chips. Just what I needed to fuel the drive!

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Sausage Scramble, Sabzi Papad, & Oat Burger!

My friend Susan gifted me Tabitha Brown's Cooking from the Spirit for my birthday, and y'all, I love this book! It's written in Tab's unique voice, so it feels like she's reading you the recipes. And the recipes don't have measurements! Just ingredient lists. So it really does feel like you're cooking from the spirit. I love to cook and don't really need recipes for most things, but I do always need meal ideas. And that's what this book gives. 

The first thing I made with the Sausage Scramble. It uses Field Roast sausage in place of traditional tofu for a fun twist on breakfast. Also, spinach, bell peppers, and mushrooms. This made for a hearty weekend brunch!

Here's another fun dish from Vegan Treasures of India, my current favorite cookbook. This is Sabzi Papad, which is essentially a yogurt soup (I used my homemade soy yogurt), and then you crumble in crispy papad (those cracker-like Indian flatbreads). The papad thickens the soup into a stew, much like a tortilla soup. I served it over white rice.

And finally, here's an Oat Burger from Otherlands. I met a couple friends for afternoon tea at this hippie-dippy, longtime Memphis coffee shop, and I was hungry for dinner. So I got the Oat Burger on sourdough. I'm not certain, but I feel like maybe they use the old Oat Burger recipe from Square Foods, a health food store that closed years ago. This tasted like I remembered that tasting, and I really miss that burger.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Brown Food That Tastes Good

Not all meals are beautiful. In fact, some of the tastiest stuff is pretty ugly. Case in point: This Cozy Sweet Potato Peanut Stew from Plant You. This hearty stew has a base of sweet potatoes and red lentils with lots of PB and spinach. We had a little false-winter cold snap last week, so this was nice and comforting for those chilly days. 

Another a very ugly meal: Punk-kin Pasta from How It All Vegan by Sarah Kramer. This one is an oldie but a goodie. I try to make this every fall, and I've kept that tradition going for about a decade, I think. It's pasta with a simple pumpkin based sauce, vegan sausage, and vegan cheddar. It's always very ugly though because the pumpkin sauce is so thick.

This Oktoberfest Hot Dog and German Potato Salad is a little prettier. But not much. Just before the end of October, I made Kraut Dogs (veggie dogs boiled in beer and kraut) with Ikea caper-dill mustard. I had a six-pack of Oktoberfest beer that needed drinking while it was still in season, and this was a perfect pairing.