Thursday, June 29, 2023

Product Review: Jovial Foods Vegan Mac

I was sent a couple boxes of Jovial Foods Gluten-free Vegan Mac to review, and though I'm not gluten-free, I sometimes prefer the texture of gluten-free pasta over whole wheat pasta. Now, white pasta absolutely wins the prize for best texture in my book, but I try to limit my refined carbs so that I only have them around workouts (or special occasions).

So gluten-free pasta is a great go-to for a healthy everyday meal. This box has brown rice pasta, which is probably the most superior of the gf-pastas, texture-wise. This particular one only has one ingredient — organic brown rice flour. That's it! As for the cheese sauce, it's made with pea protein, rice syrup solids, palm oil powder, corn starch. Not the most wholesome ingredient list, but at least every ingredient is organic. 

One of my favorite ways to eat boxed mac is Mac & Trees & Peas. 

You cook the pasta according to package directions, but throw some frozen broccoli and a drained can of chickpeas into the boiling pasta water when there's about three minutes left on the timer. The frozen broccoli will slow down the boil, so I just wait until the water starts to boil again and test the broccoli and pasta for done-ness. If it needs more time, I'll add a minute or so.

This Jovial Foods vegan mac made a fantastic and quick weeknight dinner. The cheese sauce was super-creamy, thanks to the addition of soymilk and vegan butter. I would absolutely buy this!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Not Chicken and Healthy Bowls

A while back, I was shopping at Sprouts when I noticed about half the products in the vegan meat section were on closeout sale. While this concerns me (does this mean they’re not selling well?), I was also happy to stock up on some things I probably wouldn’t buy otherwise.

One of those products was a fiesta-flavored vegan chicken shred, and I wish I could remember the brand name. But I can’t. It was in a yellow and red box, and it was a brand I’d never heard of. Anyway, it made for a perfect taco filling! The bad part about buying products on closeout is that I can probably never buy them again.

Another product I found on closeout were these Hungry Plant vegan chicken patties, which made for an excellent chicken sandwich. I always top my chicken sandwiches with vegan mayo and pickles. It’s the only way!

When I’m not eating fake meat, I’m turning to healthier options, like bowls. This was a very tasty and filling Bean & Rice Bowl with pintos, kale, brown rice, and avocado. Yum!

And this Miso Glory Bowl of Goodness was a recipe from a Complement e-cookbook that I downloaded. The miso-based dressing had a little Complement Gut Nuture mixed it. Gut Nuture is a prebiotic powder (that tastes like ginger!) that I take daily to help my gut microbiome. I usually just mix it with water, but it’s fun to use in recipes.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Indian Corn Pudding, Taco Tuesday, and Fancy Avo Toast

I'm still catching up on posts of my random eats, so these are all foods I ate a long time ago! Like March! I made this Makai No Chevdo (aka Indian corn pudding) from Plant-Based India, and it was soooo good, especially in those cool spring days. The savory dish is seasoned with curry leaves and lots of other Indian spices, and it's topped with crunchy sev. On the side, I made the Blueprint Pakoras from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. These were baked pakoras stuff with lots of veggies, which you can't see under all that chickpea flour batter. I served them with some sprout chutney that I made months ago and froze ice cube trays.

Taco Tuesdays are back at Global Cafe! A couple years ago, the cafe's manager, Juan, started Taco Tuesday specials where you could get three tacos with free chips and salsa and a $4 margarita. And I loved Taco Tuesday. But then Juan moved away, and so did Taco Tuesday. But he's back in Memphis and managing Global again, and he's revived the old taco special. I always get the Black Bean Tacos. Juan's margs are the best in town. 

Way back on St. Patrick's Day, I met up with a coworker for coffee at Vice & Virtue, and since it was around lunch time, I ordered this Avocado Toast. Best avo toast ever! The homemade bread is super thick and toasty, and they add garlic pepitas and fermented jalapeno. It also comes with chili-garlic butter, but it's easy to ask for that to be left off. 

And here's a quick meal from a can! I discovered these Heyday canned, seasoned chickpeas at Sprouts, and they're perfect for busy nights. Sadly, after trying a few flavors, the cans disappeared from Sprouts' shelves. Bummer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Memphis Vegan Festival 2023

The annual Memphis Vegan Festival was Sunday in Fourth Bluff Park. Our vegan fest, organized by Memphis event planner Cynthia Daniels, isn’t your typical vegan fest with speakers and free samples. Instead, it’s a gathering of local (and regional) food vendors selling food.

The fest is free to attend, but you definitely need to plan on spending a good amount of money to eat. Which is fine by me because I love using my money to support small, local, Black-owned, vegan businesses. The vast majority of the businesses at this event are Black-owned (perhaps all of them were this year).

I arrived just after the fest opened because these tend to get very busy later in the day, and then you have to spend time standing in food lines. But when I arrived, most vendors were just getting started. I spotted Little Rock-based Utopia Deli right away, and since I can’t eat their food very often, I went there first for this Hot Chop Sandwich!

This was a fried vegan pork chop (but it had the same texture as vegan chicken) covered with agave-gold sauce and served on a brioche bun with garlic aioli and pickles. It was sooooo good! I sat on a park bench and enjoyed every bite.

Next up, I spotted Thicc Ass Vegan, who was selling alfredo pasta and milkshakes. I was too full for pasta, but I’d been wanting to try her milkshakes for a while. So I ordered this Cinnamon Toast Crunch Milkshake. It had little bits of cereal mixed in, and wow!! Who knew cereal would be better in milkshake form?

Somehow, milkshakes are very filling. So I didn’t have room for any more food at that point, and I’d spent plenty on two items. So I headed home. But I wish I had all the money and all the room in my belly because I wanted to eat so many more things: burgers, tacos, loaded fries, mushroom wings, cinnamon rolls, vegan ice cream. Everything looked so good!

Monday, June 19, 2023

Father's Day Fun with Papa Crunk!

I went back home to Arkansas on Friday for an early Father's Day with my parents. First things first, I gave my dad his gifts (a Yeti beer coozie, a Busch beer shirt, and a six-pack of pickle beers). I picked up the shirt and coozie at the Budweiser gift shop in St. Louis when Paul and I visited there back in April. And I thought it'd be fun to buy family Bud shirts. I got myself a Bud Light shirt, my mom a Budweiser tee, and my dad a Busch shirt (because that's his beer of choice). Now, I much prefer craft beer, but I do enjoy the political statement that supporting Budweiser makes these days. Happy to support any brands that celebrate Pride!

After our family pic, we headed to a new Thai place in downtown Hardy, Arkansas. Sabai Thai was super vegan-friendly. When I asked to have my Pad See Ew made without fish sauce, the server asked me if I was vegan and said the chef was always super careful with vegan orders. Quite surprising in a small Arkansas town! And awesome!

I also got the Thai Salad Rolls with no egg. These were really great salad rolls.

After dinner, we went to the Spring River Draft House to meet up with my parents' friends for a beer and live music. They typically have cover artists on Fridays, and the guy played a bunch of 90s songs!

And we rounded out the night with my mom's Vegan Peanut Butter Pie topped with PB Oreos. Sooooo good. She used the Philadelphia vegan cream cheese for this, and it was definitely the best version she's made over the years. That cream cheese is so good.

The next morning, I went to Loberg Park in Hardy for a 10.5-mile run, but about four miles in, I had to use the bathroom. So I went to the little bathroom building next to the playground, and well, I got stuck. The metal door didn't lock because the lock didn't line up with the doorframe, so I closed it extra hard. And then when I went to open the door, it wouldn't budge. I tried with my weight and might. And nothing.

Luckily, my parents live about 20 minutes away from the park, so I called my dad. And he was there as fast as he could be to free me. He was able to put his weight into the door and push it in. Whew!! That was scary. My dad is a real hero!

After that, I finished my run in this beautiful park overlooking Spring River. 

And then I headed back to my parents' house for brunch. We had vegan Breakfast Casserole with Just Egg, Impossible Sausage, biscuits, and Chao cheese, plus some Hash Browns and mimosas. 

My mom and I got a little kayaking in on their lake, too, before I had to drive home.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Carb Week: Grains! Bread!

As I mentioned in my last couple posts, I've been slowly adding carbs back in after doing Phil Maffetone's Two-Week Test with very low carbs. During those 12 days (cause I cut it short), I felt pretty sluggish and gross. My energy was low, my run paces were slow. But as soon as I started working carbs back in on Sunday, I instantly felt better. 

On Sunday, I added beans, and on Monday, I had fruit. Tuesday was grains! Grains were one thing I didn't miss as much because, some days even in my normal eating patterns, I'll go a whole day without grains. But I was amazed at how much better I felt with a little brown rice in my tummy. I started with brown rice on the side of a Tofu Stir-fry. I'd made the dish for Monday and served it then with just extra tofu since grain day was the next day. But I added rice to my leftover desk lunch at the office, and it sure did make a different in my energy level.

Later that day for dinner, I made this quick Curried Lentils & Kale dish over quinoa with Roasted Bhinda (okra). The rice and lentils was an easy dish made on the fly with canned lentils and kale, but I used a recipe from Plant-Based India for the bhinda. It was loaded with Indian spices, like coriander, cumin seed, hing, and amchur powder. So good.

The next day, Wednesday, was bread day! I may not have missed grains that much, but I missed bread so bad. I make my own sourdough, and I had some in the freezer just waiting. I couldn't wait to whip some out and butter with Miyoko's oat butter. I had some Upton's Naturals vegan tortilla chicken soup on the side. 

The soup was just okay (a little too lime-y), but the bread was everything. I ate one slice, assessed how I felt (great!), and then I ate the other. Still great! Clearly, my body does best on carbs. Later in the evening, I made a bean and rice burrito on a white flour tortilla. Very satisfying!

Today is sugar day! Rather than have a big dessert (because I've got pie planned this weekend), I spread my sugar out over the day with some grape jelly on my morning toast, a little sweetened peanut butter bite snack with a banana mid-morning, and some barbecue mushroom jerky with a little added sugar in the afternoon. I try to never go over 25 grams of added sugar per day, after reading the Alzheimer's Solution a couple years back. I felt just fine after each sugar snack! Now, I know when I eat a big dessert, I do typically feel a little gross after, but I so rarely do that so I think that's fine. Splurges are good for the soul. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Carb Week: Fruit!

I'm slowly adding back carbs one by one this week after two weeks(ish) of Phil Maffetone's Two-Week Test. I did the low-carb thing as part of the Born to Run 2 training program, and the goal is to add carbs back and see how you feel — to check for "carb intolerance," if that's a real thing. Ha, it sounds iffy to me. But I did it!

On Sunday, I added back beans, and I instantly felt alive again after two weeks of feeling like trash. And then Monday, it was fruit! Now, I've never been a huge fruit eater — meaning, I rarely just pick up raw fruit and eat it. I'd rather have something salty. But my post-run fruit smoothies are different. 

I rely on protein smoothies with fruit (always a banana, usually some berries, sometimes mango or peaches or dates), flax, walnuts, and other add-ins after every run. I would prefer to sit down to a hot and savory breakfast. I just don't have time on weekdays, and smoothies are an easy way to get my carbs and protein.

But during the Two-Week Test, my smoothies got super lame. They were just protein powder, almond milk, nut butter, and seeds. No fruit. Not very thick or tasty. So I was super-glad to have my Banana-Blueberry Smoothie with Complement Protein on Monday (and every day since!).

How did I feel after that fruit? Just fine! No noticeable spike in blood sugar, no bloating. Just energized and powered for my day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Carb Week: Beans!

It’s carb week!! After 12 days with no carbs on the Two-Week Test (yes, I cut it short), I’m slowly adding carbs back one by one.

On Sunday, I started with beans! God, I missed beans. As a mostly whole foods vegan, beans are my source of protein, and without them, I had to rely on protein powder, nuts, and seeds (and the occasional Not Burger/Beyond Burger) for protein. And well, it didn’t work so well. I felt tired the whole time, and I suspect I wasn’t getting enough protein.

For my first bean-y meal, I made some Roasted Bacon-y Chickpeas (chickpeas, olive oil, vegan bacon salt, and garlic powder) in the air fryer and added them to a salad.

Honestly, I had so many salads on the Two-Week Test that I really didn’t want another, but I had one serving of salad greens left in the giant container I bought, so I didn’t want them to go to waste. The chickpeas certainly made my salad more exciting though!

I only used a half-cup of chickpeas on the salad, but I cooked the whole can. And later in the day, I snacked on the rest of them while I made dinner. So I ate a whole can of chickpeas on Sunday, and I felt great. Much better than I’d felt in days! This, to me, was proof that my body does great with legumes — lots of them.

On Monday, I put myself to another test with this super tofu-packed stir-fry. I made tofu puffs in the air fryer and sauteed with zucchini, bell pepper, onion, and green beans. I couldn’t add rice until Tuesday, so I made a plate with extra tofu. And you know what? I felt fantastic. Yay, carbs!

Monday was also fruit day, but I’ll get to that in a post tomorrow!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Vegan Two-Week Test: The Conclusion

Woo hoo! My Two-Week Test for the Born to Run 2 program is over! In case you've missed it, I've been on a super-duper low-carb diet for the past two weeks (well, almost ... but we'll get to that in a second) as part of the Run Free program from Christopher McDougall's new-ish Born to Run 2 training guide. It's basically a follow-up to his best-selling Born to Run book, and it helps you transition to more a more minimalist style of running with a focus on foot strike and cadence. 

But for the food part, you follow Phil Maffetone's Two-Week Test and eliminate most carbs for 14 days. And then you slowly add them back in to see how you feel on different kinds of carbs. As a longtime vegan runner, I've always felt great on carbs, but I was still curious to see what I would learn — if anything — from this. You can see my last few posts for some ideas of what I ate, and here are a few things I had over the past couple days. 

I made these awesome Raw Beet Burgers in the dehydrator last week. I loosely followed this recipe but added some walnuts. I grated beets, zucchini, and carrots, added about four tablespoons of ground flax mixed with a little water (to make a paste), a handful of walnuts, a handful of pepitas, a handful of sundried tomatoes and some spices. And then I pureed it all in the food processor and made patties that I dehydrated for about 12ish hours. I had roasted broccoli with cashew cheese on the side and drizzled on cashew cheese on my burger, too.

Yesterday, I attempted to make Coconut Flour Pancakes, but well, I made scrambled pancakes. Haha. Turns out pancakes don't flip well without some gluten. They still tasted good though, so I drizzled these with tahini.

Now, about that "almost two weeks" part. The test was supposed to end Sunday evening. But I got invited to a Memphis Hash House Harriers run on Saturday, and if you know anything about hashing, it's basically a running and drinking party. Run a bit, drink cheap beer, run some more, drink more cheap beer. And another big tenant of the Born to Run 2 program is fun! And I figured fun was most important. So I ended my test on Saturday, and my first carbs were from Busch Light. HAHAHA. Not the tastiest or classiest, but the run was a blast.

This week, I'm slowly adding one type of carb each day. I started with beans on Sunday, and I'll post about that tomorrow. But by week's end, all of my carbs will be back. Yay! Here are a few things I learned on two weeks of essentially vegan keto:

1) I felt like trash the whole time. My energy was super-low during the Two-Week Test, and I felt sluggish during my runs. My normal easy pace felt hard most of the time. 

2) It's far too easy to lose weight on this plan. Now, some people may want that, so it might not be a bad thing. But I lost six pounds I didn't want to lose. That said, I'm not too worried because I'm sure those pounds will bounce right back on carbs this week.

3) It's really hard to get enough protein on the Two-Week Test if you're vegan. I relied solely on Complement protein powder, nuts, seeds, and the occasional Not/Beyond Burger. If I were to do this again (I wouldn't), I'd probably make some exceptions and allow tofu and some low-glycemic beans, like chickpeas. Protein shakes get old fast.

4) The Two-Week Test is a very high-fat diet. And I found that on days that I had a very large amount of fat, like say, two avocados and 1/2 cup of nuts in one day, I would get a stomachache. My body is fine on moderate fat, but too much fat doesn't sit well with me.

So yea, I didn't have a good experience on the Two-Week Test. But carbs are back now, so I'm feeling better already. I'll check back in with how each carb re-entry goes this week.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Vegan Two-Week Test: Burrito Bowl, Fried "Rice," and Nori Jerky

Only 3 more days of super low carbs on Phil Maffetone's Two-Week Test, y'all. I've never been so ready for a food reset to end. But I digress. Here are a few things I've been eating on the vegan version of Maffetone's carb intolerance test that I'm doing as part of the Born to Run 2 program.

Cauliflower rice has been my jam lately. It's by far nothing like real rice, but it'll do for a few days. This Cauliflower Fried "Rice" was actually really good. It had mushrooms, carrots, and onions, with some Bragg's and sesame oil. I bought a few bags of cauli rice and broccoli rice to get me through these two weeks.

Another recent hit was this Burrito Bowl with broccoli rice, sauteed cauliflower, peppers, and chard with taco seasoning, salsa, avocado, and walnut taco meat that I made with some avocado oil and taco spices.

Last night, I baked a giant spaghetti squash to eat for a few days. I went traditional spaghetti style with a sugar-free marinara from a jar, cashew mozz, and cashew parm. I made some Swiss chard (from my neighbor's garden) on the side. This was a nice, filling meal. I've found winter squashes to be pretty satisfying on this thing.

I stopped by Raw Girls to grab a salad for Monday's office lunch. The Taco Salad there is just mixed greens, walnut taco meat, guac, and pico, so it was Two-Week Test-safe and delicious. I was still pretty hungry after this though. 

And finally, this was a fun snack. I grabbed this Gopal's Power Wrap vegan jalapeno and cheese nori-wrapped jerky from a health food store in Jonesboro while visiting my Me-maw a couple weeks back. It has a sunflower seed base and fits all the Two-Week test criteria. I wish I'd bought more!

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Vegan Two-Week Test: The Best Coconut Yogurt, Plus Burger Time

I'm now on day 10 of Phil Maffetone's 14-day carb elimination plan, so I'm in the home stretch. And then I'll get to "test" my body's response to each kind of carb (beans, fruit, grains, and bread) next week, and I cannot wait. I'll do a full post on my findings when I'm done, but I'll tell you now that, so far, my review of this plan is not good. 

But we'll save the negative stuff for later. Here are some things I've been eating. In fact, here's what may be the highlight of this whole challenge for me — Culina Coconut Yogurt. I found this at Sprouts while looking for a vegan, sugar-free, soy-free, starch-free yogurt. They're hard to find, as most of the unsweetened ones still contain starch. But this is just coconut, water, agar, and probiotics. And it's so good. Super duper thick and tangy! I've been enjoying this with lots of nuts and seeds. 

Once this is over, I'll buy more to have with fresh fruit and vegan honey. It's not cheap at $12 a tub, so it'll be a splurge for sure. But it's so good, and I saw Sprouts also had this in smaller, single-serve tubs for just over $3. I'd probably just buy one at a time rather than the big tub in the future.

Phil Maffetone's plan says no processed meats (it's designed for meat eaters, but there's a vegan version), but he doesn't say no processed vegan meats. So I'm allowing Beyond and Not Burgers because they're super low-carb and high-protein. And I need all the protein right now. My main source is Complement protein powder and nuts. After my Saturday long run, I had this Not Burger on a lettuce bun, and it hit the spot. Okay, a real bun would have really hit the spot, but this was okay.

My go-to meal over these two weeks has been veggie stir-fries over cauliflower or broccoli rice. This was a tasty Veggie Cashew Stir-fry. These warm meals are satisfying, even if they're not super filling. I've been just following my dinner with a protein shake.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Vegan Two-Week Test: Coconut Chia Pudding & Squash Bowl

Today marks the first day of the second week of my carb-elimination test. You can read more about why I'm doing this challenge here. But basically, it's a vegan version of Phil Maffetone's Two-Week Test to eliminate most carbs from your diet and then slowly add them back in, one at a time, to see how you feel. I'm a big fan of carbs, and I think low-carb diets for the long-term are a bad idea. This plan is part of a larger running program I'm doing from the Born to Run 2 book.

But this is just a test to see how your body reacts to each kind of carb when you add them back in, one at a time. Next week, I’ll have bean day, fruit day, grain day, and bread day, and then Friday will be “everything is back” day. And I cannot wait.

Until then, here are some things I’ve been eating. Most days, I run in the mornings, so I’ll have a handful of nuts before and a shake with Complement protein, almond butter, and almond milk after. But on non-running days, I’ve been enjoying Coconut Chia Pudding made with full-fat coconut milk and chia seeds. I’m supposed to avoid all sweeteners, even stevia and monkfruit, so this was only sweetened from the coconut.

Another breakfast that I’ve been loving is a super-simple Whole Avocado with Salsa. I sprinkle a little black salt on it so it's like scrambled eggs with salsa!

A favorite dinner so far is this Butternut Squash Bowl with kale, mushrooms, avocado, and almonds. Squash is the carbiest veggie I can have, so it was pretty satisfying. I’m finding, in general, meals without carbs are very unsatisfying. Even if I get full, it just feels like something is missing.

Last Thursday, my friend Susan and I went out for dinner, and there are only a few salad-y places in town where I know I can eat something Two-Week Test-friendly, so we went to one of them — Cheffie’s. It’s a build-your-own salad place, and I built this massive bowl with tons of avocado, artichokes, olives, onion, sundried tomatoes, almonds, and oil-vinegar dressing. Thankfully, wine is allowed on this thing! Whew. That makes it all more bearable.