Sunday, June 26, 2016

Vegan Dinner at Vaughan & Nicole's!

It's been awhile since I've hung out with my friends Vaughan and Nicole. We go way, way back. In fact, Vaughan and I started an animal rights group in Memphis back in 2003! We used to do PETA demos and vegan leafleting around town. But over time, that group morphed into more of a vegan social club, and we started doing fewer demos and more monthly vegan outings and occasional potlucks. That group fizzled out a few years back as new groups emerged. But we've stayed pretty tight over the years! I try to hang out with Vaughan and Nicole as often as possible, but we're all so busy!

Lucky for me, this weekend worked out where I got some quality Vaughan and Nicole time! Nicole and I did a Lululemon-sponsored 3-mile fun run and yoga class at Loflin Yard on Saturday morning, and then she invited me over for dinner Sunday night. Here's Nicole and I on Saturday before getting super sweaty on that "fun run" in mid-day 90-degree temps!

And here's Vaughan and Nicole on Sunday night with their dog Tiger. Not pictured is their daughter Vera and their cat Henry (they were both inside when this pic was taken).

I arrived at their house on Sunday night around 4:30 for a little cocktail hour outside in their gorgeous backyard. I had some white wine to start, and then Vaughan mixed me this bizarre but delicious cocktail made with lemon-echinacea juice, coffee liqueur, and vodka. You wouldn't think lemon and coffee would work together, but it does. And it's delicious!

Nicole made an Edamame-Avocado Dip that was to die for. It had chunks of avocado, red pepper, edamame, and red quinoa. We snacked on it outside with some kale-chia tortilla chips.

Tiger hung out with us while we sipped cocktails and munched on chips. He's such a good dog! Shortly after they purchased their house a couple years ago, Tiger showed up in their yard. He was injured and looking for love. And they took him in and got him treated. Now he's the star of the show!

We went inside to eat dinner at their dining room table overlooking the bird feeders in the backyard. We watched birds and squirrels while we dined on Nicole's yummy dinner of BBQ Riblets, Hash Browns with Turmeric, and Sauteed Broccoli. I'd forgotten how much I love those Morningstar riblets!! They're one of a few vegan products Morningstar makes, and they're so good.

For dessert, we had So Delicious Cappuccino Cashewmilk Ice Cream with Oreos! Nothing beats ice cream and cookies on a hot summer night.

It was such a lovely evening! And the food and cocktails were delicious! After dinner, we went back outside to check out their tomato plants, which have been putting out weird tomatoes that are black on the bottoms. After a little investigation, we found the culprits. Tomato hornworms! They were all over three of the tomato plants, but because their bodies blend in with the color of the plants, they were hard to spot. There are actually two in this pic, but one is hiding pretty well. Can you spot them both?

Anyway, sucks about their tomato plants. But the little guys were so cute! And they'll be gorgeous sphinx moths one day!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Minimalist Baker Has a Cookbook! And It's Awesome!

I think we can all agree that, when it comes to vegan recipe blogs, Minimalist Baker is tops. That's the blog I send new vegans (or the veg-curious) to when they email me asking for vegan recipes. That's the place I turn when I need a recipe for anything from homemade coconut whipped cream to quinoa taco meat to Oreo cookie pancakes (yea, that's an actual thing).

So I was STOKED when I learned that Minimalist Baker blogger Dana Scultz had a new vegan cookbook out! It's called Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking, and it's basically a hardcover version of the blog. It's loaded with gorgeous full-color photos, and every single recipe is something I need to add to my way-too-long-to-ever-tackle, to-make wish list. Vegan cheddar beer soup, sweet potato sage raviolis, cornbread chili pot pies, pizza burgers, spicy braised tofu tostadas, garlic "cheddar" herb biscuits, pizza stuffed mushrooms, toasted dark chocolate coconut popcorn, pumpkin apple upside down cake, peanut butter cup puffed rice bars.

It's simple weeknight food made with wholesome ingredients, and most of the recipes are gluten-free (if that's your thing). I wanted to try so many recipes before reviewing this book, and I'll definitely be making that beer cheddar soup soon. But I figured I should go ahead and share my thoughts after making two dishes that turned out phenomenally.

I started with Thai Baked Sweet Potatoes and WOW! These are baked potatoes topped with sauteed savory-sweet chickpeas (seasoned with lots of spices, like coriander, garlic, ginger, and maple), a creamy ginger-tahini sauce, fresh herbs (from my front porch), lime juice, and sriracha (we use Yellowbird at my house). This dish was so wholesome and yet so satisfying. I felt really good about myself after eating it.

I also made the Spicy BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches with Grilled Pineapple. Since it's been so very hot here, I've been craving sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, chips, and salads. Simple meals that just seem to go with summer. This messy 'cue sandwich has summer written all over it. The jackfruit is slow-simmered in a homemade BBQ sauce that's both sweet and vinegary in true Southern style. The pineapple is grilled (but I "grilled" mine in a well-greased skillet). The sweetness of the fruit is the perfect complement to the tanginess of the jackfruit. So good. I've been eating these sandwiches all week! Today, I even had some of the leftover BBQ jackfruit in a salad with Just Ranch, veggies, and vegan cheese.

If you only buy a couple vegan books this year, definitely put this one on that list (also Baconish, which is equally awesome). Seriously. Nobody does simple, healthy, vegan home-cooking like Minimalist Baker. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vegan Beefless Tips & Rice

One of my favorite dishes to order at Memphis' Imagine Vegan Cafe is the "beef" tips and rice meal. It's a hearty main made of sauteed Gardein Beefless Tips and caramelized onions and served over brown rice. It comes with two sides, and I typically opt for veggies, like garlic kale or brown-sugared carrots or sauteed spinach. But, of course, Imagine has much more indulgent sides too (vegan mac & cheese, buttery garlic toast, hush puppies, fluffy biscuits).

Imagine uses Gardein for a lot of their dishes, and even though I can buy Gardein at Kroger and cook with it at home, it always tastes better when prepared with love in Imagine's kitchen. Also, they're not afraid to use lots of oil. It's a restaurant, and oil makes things taste good!

I don't mind indulging in greasy meals when I'm eating out. In fact, I typically prefer my restaurant meals to be quite decadent. But at home, I like to keep oil to a minimum, using just a teaspoon or tablespoon for an entire recipe (unless I'm deep-frying, and that's another story!). I grabbed some Gardein Beefless Tips on clearance at Kroger and decided to try and recreate Imagine's beef tips dish at home with a little less oil. The results were delicious! I served my tips with roasted beets and asparagus (yes, I turned my oven on when it was 100 degrees outside, and it was totally worth it).

I want to share this super-simple recipe! It has just six ingredients, but it tastes far more complex. And the whole recipe only has a half-tablespoon of oil. The tender tips and caramelized onions pair perfectly with plain brown rice. So satisfying!

Vegan Beefless Tips & Rice
Yields 2 servings

1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 white onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pkg. frozen Gardein Beefless Tips
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 cup cooked brown rice

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir to coat with oil. Leave the onions alone for about 4-5 minutes, and then stir. Leave them alone again for another couple minutes and stir again. Repeat this process for about 10-12 minutes or until onions are very soft and caramelized. A little browning is ideal.

Add the garlic and cook and stir for one minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the frozen beefless tips and stir to coat with with oil and onions. Cook and stir the tips for 5-7 minutes or until heated through and browned. This can take a little longer depending on how high your heat is. Add soy sauce and stir to coat. Cook for about 2 more minutes.

Divide the brown rice onto 2 plates. Spoon half of the tips over each plate.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

June Goddess Box Unpacking!

I typically review my monthly Goddess Provisions subscription boxes a couple days after they arrive, but life has been crazy and busy lately. So I've put this post off for a few weeks. If you're not familiar, Goddess Provisions is a monthly subscription box company run by the same lovely folks who run Vegan Cuts. The monthly goddess box features crystals, teas, chocolates, bath products, essential oils, and more. And they're usually all full-sized items!

I've been a subscriber since the company launched last October (and I'm also an ambassador for the company, so click here if you want a box of your own and I'll make a buck or two). Anyway, this month's box was themed "Dream Time," and it was filled with stuff to help you sleep or to use on your skin and teeth before bedtime.

There's Anima Mundi Herbals lucid dreaming tea and dream elixir, The Ritual Store face mask, Essence of Vali sleep essential oil roll-on, Smart Ash activated charcoal tooth whitener, and a spirit quartz.

I was most excited about the tea and sleep elixir. I actually sleep really well every night. I'm the type who falls asleep the minute my head hits the pillow and can sleep through a tornado. But this herbal tea (made from passionflower, skullcap, kava kava, rose, stevia, and other herbs) and sleep tincture/third eye tonic (made with ashwagandha, ginger, kalia, rose, and other herbs) are said to not only help with getting to sleep but also with dream recall. I've made the tea and spiked it with the elixir several times since I got this kit in early June, and I swear I've been recalling my dreams better. It may be the placebo effect of thinking about recalling my dreams before I drift off to sleep, but regardless, it's either directly or indirectly working. And it's delicious! The gentle herbal tea flavor really gets me in the mood to drift off. 

The spirit quartz is just gorgeous — like a quartz crystal covered in tiny quartz points! Spirit quartz is known as the stone of harmony and alignment.

I didn't take any pictures of the Essence of Vali Sleep oil roll-on, but I did take it to Bonnaroo to help me sleep in the tent. Despite my usual ability to drift off quickly at home, I do still struggle with sleeping well in a tent, especially at a loud festival where the music goes on until 4 a.m. But this stuff smells like a soft pillow, thanks to lavender, cedarwood, marjoram, and ylang ylang. It helped!

At home, I've been using the Ritual Store's Moon Dust mask once a week. It's made with crushed crystals!! Selenite to be precise, which means this mask can you tap into your intuitive powers. The mask comes in powder form, and you mix it with water before applying to your face. And then you let it dry. It makes my face feel all firm and concrete before I wash it off.

And finally, I've been using the Smart Ash activated charcoal tooth whitener at night before bed. It's a black powder (coconut shell charcoal and Bentonite clay) that you dip your wet toothbrush into, and then you brush with it for two full minutes. It's supposed to remove toxins and make your teeth whiter. Mine are pretty stained from years of coffee, but I've been using this in hopes that it'll make a difference. I'm totally against those tooth bleaching systems because they freak me out with all those chemicals. Hoping this natural method will work! It is pretty messy though. They recommend using it in the shower, but I've been using it in the sink, and I get black stuff all over the sink. Luckily, it wipes up easily.

And that's it! It's actually about my bedtime now. I think I'll go put on my face mask and whiten my teeth and hit the sack.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Solstice! Full Moon!

Wow! I can't remember a time when the longest day of the year coincided with a night of a full moon. Full sun! Full moon! So much energy! Can you tell it's got me all wound up?! My body is pretty well in tune with the earth and the seasons and cycles of the moon, and I've just been stoked all day — for no particular reason other than today's energy just feels extra special. Also, summer is my favorite season. I love hot weather, tank tops, flip flops, fresh melon, lightening bugs, cicadas, sunburns — the whole nine!

I started my first day of summer with a new running training program. I signed up for my first marathon in December, so I need to make sure I don't lose fitness before I start training for that in August. I downloaded the Runner's World Go (called RW Go) app for my iPhone on a recommendation from the Runner's World podcast. It's got all kinds of training plans, and I selected a Half-Marathon Maintenance Plan that just keeps you at half-marathon fitness. Today's prescribed run was an easy 4-miler. Nailed it! And in my new Run Memphis singlet from my fave local running store, Breakaway Running.

I always follow my morning runs with a breakfast of a protein smoothie or a protein waffle. This morning, I picked a really summery recipe from the Vega website for this Effortless Orange Smoothie (orange, strawberry, banana, almond-coconut milk, and French Vanilla Vega One protein powder). It tasted like summer in a glass!

Then I went to work and had a totally productive day — wrapping up today's news deadlines and getting a head start on a story for next week's cover. I even took a little mid-day walk by the Mississippi River to really soak up the sun (my office is just a block or two away from the river). I'd made an awesome Solstice celebration meal on Saturday to have for lunch today. So I enjoyed this super-fresh summer salad at my desk. It's the Fiery Fruit & Quinoa Salad from the summer salads chapter in Salad Samurai. It has grilled peaches (from the farmer's market), grilled corn, and grilled onions, baked ginger beer tofu, black beans, fresh herbs (from my front porch!), and red and white quinoa. And that's all mixed together with a chia-chipotle dressing, so it's got a bit of spice and smokiness.

I wish I could show my very summery dinner, but I'm saving that picture for a cookbook review that I'll be posting on Thursday. But I'll just tell you that it was a yummy jackfruit bbq sandwich with grilled pineapple from the Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking book. So good! So summer!

After dinner, I went to a hoop skills class at my neighborhood hula hooping gym — Co-Motion Studio. It seemed like a good night to dance out all the posi vibes. I came home and gathered all my crystals to charge under the full moon, and I did a little house blessing with herbs to keep out negativity since there's been a lot of that in my life this month.

And I ended my lovely Summer Solstice evening with a mouth-watering slice of Raw Lemon Cheesecake that I picked up from the Raw Girls food truck this weekend. It's a super-tangy and creamy cake made with cashews, coconut oil, cold-pressed lemon, and a pecan crust. Topped with fresh blueberries! I followed that with a hearty locally brewed Ghost River Golden Ale. 

Happy Summer, y'all!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day Pizza Time!

If you've been reading my blog for very long, you probably already know that I have an awesome dad. I often blog about how he just randomly orders me vegan care packages from Vegan Essentials — just because. But he's awesome for so many other reasons.

My dad is a big kid at heart. He's funny. He's kind. He's a biker with a tough look and a heart of gold. He likes whiskey and moonshine, the blues and rock 'n' roll. He's just a cool dude. He's the kind of guy who'd wear a skull tee-shirt to a fancy party and not give a crap what anyone thinks. Then again, my dad would probably just avoid that fancy party altogether and instead throw back a few beers with his biker buds.

Most importantly, he'd do anything for me and my mama. I pretty much won the dad lottery. Last week, when my house was broken into, my dad and mom hopped in his truck and drove the hour to Memphis to help me repair the broken window. He wasn't feeling great that night, but that didn't stop him. I'm very lucky to have him as my daddy.

I went to Jonesboro, Arkansas today to spend a few hours with my dad. I brought him Old Smokey Charred Moonshine and Bulleit Bourbon. After gifts, we went out for pizza! Jonesboro has a build-your-own pizza chain called Uncle Maddio's, and they have vegan cheese and tofu as toppings. Their whole wheat crust is pretty amazing too. It's thin and crisp and sturdy under a ton of toppings (because that's how I do pizza!). I got mine with marinara, Daiya shreds, marinated tofu, sundried tomatoes, portabella mushrooms, bell peppers, jalapenos, green & black olives, and caramelized onions. So good! I devoured the whole thing.

In fact, we all ate way more pizza than we probably should have. It was one of those meals where one person says, "I'm gonna stop and take the rest home so I'm not too full." But then another person says "Well, I'm having another slice." And so then, everyone just eats more because who wants to sit and watch someone else eat when you could also still be eating? And that just kept happening until my pizza and my parents' shared pizza was all gone.

We spent the rest of the afternoon back at my parents' house, just chilling and watching TV. And then I made the drive home so I could be here in time to feed my cats and Maynard. It was a lovely Father's Day! Happy Father's Day, Papa Crunk!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Stuff I Ate, Part 2

Last night, I posted about half of the random meal pics I'd saved up over the past few weeks. And I promised I'd post the rest tonight. Got a bootcamp class at 6:15 a.m., so I'm gonna make this fast so I can get some sleep!

One day a few weeks ago, Paul and I grabbed some noodles for lunch at our favorite Korean noodle shop — Crazy Noodle. They have the best ramen bowls in town. I got the Tofu Ramen — veggie broth, tofu, noodles, and assorted veggies.

The very next day, my friend Nico had a birthday party at Crazy Noodle. I typically alway order ramen or mandu guk when I'm there, but since I'd just gotten my ramen fix, I opted to try something new to me — Japchae! I'd made this sweet potato glass noodle dish at home before, but this was my first time ordering it. It was so freakin' good. The noodles are soft and chewy, and it was loaded with shiitake mushrooms, carrots, onions, and bell peppers. 

We had Vegan Drinks at Babalu Tacos & Tapas at the very end of May. They have a few vegan dishes on the tapas menu, but I'd been wanting to try their Black Eyed Pea Hummus for awhile. So I ordered a plate off the appetizer menu and made that my dinner. Served with homemade chips and fresh veggies. Yes, I ate ALL OF THE HUMMUS by myself. It's covered in what they call "black eyed pea popcorn," which are crunchy, whole fried peas. Adds awesome texture.

I ordered FitQuick Java Chip Protein Waffles for post-run meals. I became a fan of FitQuick waffles after listening to the Rise & Resist podcast, and I'm already most of the way through bags of their pizza waffles and birthday cake waffles. But now I have java chip in the rotation too. Each waffle has 22 grams of vegan protein! One morning, I had one with the chocolate gravy from Cookin' Crunk.

Yesterday morning, I had a java chip waffle with maple-agave syrup, vegan white chocolate chips (the Vegan Sweets ones are super-good!), and fresh raspberries.

On Monday, after driving all night to get home from Bonnaroo, I woke up craving breakfast for lunch (because I woke up around noon). I made a Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg omelet stuffed with FYH pepper jack and Cool Foods bacon bits. On the side, I fried up some frozen hash browns with frozen mixed veggies (because, after being gone for four days, my crisper was empty of fresh veggies except for some salad stuff). Also toast with Miyoko's Creamery VeganButter.

Even though I tried to eat a fair amount of veggies and fruits at Bonnaroo, I was still feeling deprived of fresh food. And I did have some lettuce and carrots and radish in the fridge. For dinner on Monday, I made a Big Ole Dinner Salad with veggies, pinto beans, Daiya, Just Ranch, and homemade croutons. That new Just Ranch dressing has filled the ranch-sized hole in my heart. Thank you, Hampton Creek.

Finally, yesterday, I popped into Pink Diva Cupcakery for lunch. Got the Tangy Gold BBQ Tofu, Vegan Mac & Cheese, and Sauteed Mixed Veggies. Cassi's tangy tofu is made with a mustard-y 'cue sauce that's so good, I may have licked my plate when I was done. No shame. And her mac is on point.