Sunday, August 28, 2016

Breakaway Bardog 5K!

This morning was the annual Breakaway Bardog 5K, a charity race for St. Jude Children's Hospital that also commemorates the anniversary of downtown pub, Bardog. I'd never run it before, but Paul's just gotten started running, and I thought it'd be fun to encourage him to run his first 5K! So we did it.


Paul's only been running for a few months, and he runs exclusively on a treadmill at his gym. So this outdoor race in the 90-degree heat was a big challenge for him. But he made it! And he kept a pretty awesome pace (9:30/mi). Even though I run five days a week and do long distance stuff, I'm a very slow runner. I know my comfy pace, and I stick with it, so Paul left me as soon as the race began. My pace was about 11:14/mi.

The race registration came with two free beer tickets, so we immediately got some Bell's Brewery Oberons.


Bardog is owned by the same guy who owns the Slider Inn, and they have several vegan sliders on their menu. So the post-race food included a vegan option — Peanut Butter & Jelly Sliders! I had two, plus a protein bar that I stashed in my pocket before the race.


It was SOOO hot! Thankfully, Mempops was there with their amazing homemade popsicle. This Blackberry Lemon Rose Popsicle was the greatest thing ever!


Here we are with Rocky Redbird, the mascot for the Memphis Redbirds minor league baseball team.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tofu Nuggets!

When I travel, I'm always sure to fit in a stop at any natural foods markets I can find — indie health food shops, small natural store chains, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's. Call it grocery store tourism. I'd rather be eating and grocery shopping than checking out museums or historical sites. 

On my last trip to Little Rock, I picked up quite a few awesome vegan items that I can't buy at home in Memphis. I already blogged about the Miyoko's Creamery Vegan FreshMozz that I picked up at LR's Natural Grocers on that trip. Well, I also bought some Hodu Soy Thai Curry Tofu Nuggets there! I used them last week to make this amazing bowl! Brown rice, Thai tofu curry nuggets, steamed kale and local squash, tahini, and sriracha.


These nuggets were little pillowy, chewy fried tofus, and I'd say it's some of the best tofu I've ever had outside of a Vietnamese restaurant (Vietnamese joints always do tofu right!). I opened the package and ate one right away, and even cold from the fridge, they were just perfect. I could have eaten the whole package cold (it was only two servings), but I knew they'd be even better prepared. 


Hodo Soy makes other flavors and other styles of prepared tofu, so I'll have to try more variety next time I'm in Little Rock! These Thai ones would be hard to beat though. Great curry flavor, just the right level of saltiness, perfect chewy texture. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bar Review: Keep Healthy Bars!

There are four foods I eat on a weekly basis, sometimes multiple times per week — ramen noodles, protein waffles, protein smoothies, and energy/snack bars. The noodles — fancy ramen made from scratch with brown rice noodles, tofu, and veggies — are reserved for my leisurely weekend breakfasts. The waffles and smoothies are strictly for post-workout. But bars find their way into my diet morning, noon, and night.

Most often, I eat them as pre-workout snacks early in the a.m. — like 5:30 or 6 a.m. before I take off for a run or gym class. But sometimes, I'll have a bar before an evening yoga class or as a mid-day snack. I'm always trying different bars, but I'm partial to simple bars made with fruit and nuts. And that's what Keep Healthy Inc. makes. They sent me a whole box of assorted bars to review!


In the box, there were four types of bars — New York Date Bars, Fruitkies, Low Glycemic Bars, and Organic Protein Bars. Each bar is a different flavor, so I didn't get through every one before this review, but I did sample quite a few. 

We'll start with the classic New York Date Bars. These were the original bars that Keep Healthy made with they launched the company. Its founder Ron Sowa learned about the practice of eating and sharing dates while living and working in Abu Dhabi. When he learned how healthy dates were, he launched this bar company back in the States. Here's the New York Date Bar collection.


These are simple, straightforward date bars with just two or three ingredients — dates and nuts. I first tried the Apple Walnut Bar before a workout class at the gym. Dates are perfect for pre-workout because they're a great source of quick-digesting carbs. The texture is soft, and the bars are naturally very sweet. This one had apples, dates, walnuts, and a hint of cinnamon. Tasted like apple pie!


I also tried the Apricot Coconut Date Bar. It was still very sweet but it seemed slightly less so, probably because coconut isn't that sweet. I cut this one in half because I was doing a shorter workout. I often halve bars before runs of less than four miles or workout classes of less than 30 minutes. For those easier workouts, I try to keep my pre-workout energy intake to 100 calories. 


The Fruitkies are three-ingredient bars that feature lots of different dried fruits and some also have nuts. I didn't get the name at first, but then I read the back of the bar: "Have a fruitkie, not a cookie." 


My very favorite bar of all the Keep Healthy Bars I tried was the Mango Almond Fruitkie! This has dried mangos, cane sugar, almonds, and brown rice crisp. Because the bars are made with dried fruits, some are very sweet. But this one was only lightly sweet with a rich almond flavor. I'd buy this again and again.


There's also a Blueberry Pecan Fruitkie. It had a much firmer texture with less chew. And it was REALLY sweet. Not my fave. Meh.


The Macadamia Date Fruitkie reminded me of the New York Date Bars. It was good. Had a nice macadamia flavor. Not too hard, not too soft.


Next up — Organic Protein Bars. These are made with nut butter, brown rice protein, pea fiber, natural sweeteners, crisp brown rice, and for some bars, chocolate and fruit. Each has 15 grams of protein, making these ideal for a quick post-workout snack.


I haven't tried these after a run yet, but I did have one on Monday morning as a pre-breakfast. I had to be at a Habitat for Humanity worksite at 6:30 a.m. to see former President Jimmy Carter (!!!) speak for a news story I was writing for work. And that was awesome! But that meant no time for a proper breakfast. So I had the Vanilla Almond Crisp Bar on the drive there. It was hearty, and you could tell it was loaded with protein powder. The powder made it a little crumbly when biting into the bar, but the flavor was great. It kept me full until 8 a.m. when I could get back home and eat a real breakfast.


The Low Glycemic Bars are also high in protein — 12 grams. These nut butter/protein powder bars are sweetened with coconut nectar, so they're safe for diabetics. I really love these bars!


The Lemon Zest Bar had a firm but melt-in-your-mouth texture. It's made with almond butter, whole grain brown rice protein, organic apricots, chicory root, matcha tea, and natural lemon flavor. I love all things lemon, and this tasted like heaven.


But the real star of the Low Glycemic Bar show was the Sea Salt Brownie Bar! I had this as an afternoon snack one Saturday before heading to a party. I knew there would be snacks at the party, so I didn't want a full dinner. This bar had the texture of soft, fudgey brownies and tasted like them too!


I'd say the Sea Salt Brownie and the Mango Almond bars were my faves. But every Keep Healthy bar I tried was delicious (okay, I wasn't in love with blueberry pecan, but it was still okay). And they're so wholesome. Sometimes, I eat cookies pre-workout (seriously), but when I have these bars, I feel much better about the situation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Stuff I Ate

Hey, here's some stuff I ate!

We had our monthly Memphis Vegan Drinks meetup last week at LYFE Kitchen downtown. I got a glass of happy hour wine and some Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps! I love these 'cause they're stuffed with wheatberries (my fave!) and Gardein beefless tips. Also, on their wall menu, it doesn't list ingredients, and I think non-vegans order them all the time thinking they're made with real beef. Ha! Tricked ya! And you liked it.


I also got an order of LYFE's Corn Chowder. It's made with cashew cream, so it's totally vegan. Even though it's HOT outside, LYFE Kitchen's downtown location is frigid inside. I don't do well with air conditioning (I'm always cold!), so this soup helped warm me up.


I ate at LYFE again tonight! But this time, it was the East Memphis location. I had a Lululemon St. Jude Marathon Heroes Team meeting at Lululemon's Regalia store, and it's right across from LYFE. So I grabbed a Veggie Burger with Daiya and the Kale & Cranberry Salad. I'm a little bummed that they've apparently switched the burger bun out for a sandwich thin. I love sandwich thins, but when I eat out, I want more bread! Also, there was no kale in my kale salad. It was romaine and some baby greens. Weird. It was more of a green salad with cranberries and onions. Good. But not a kale salad. 


I went to Imagine Vegan Cafe for brunch on Sunday as usual. Got the Breakfast Burrito with a side of Garlic Kale. Inside the burrito is a ton of tofu scram, vegan cheese, and sausage. Side of guac and salsa. Solid.


At home, I've been eating one of my long-time fave breakfasts that I haven't made in forever — Bernard's Brown Rice Breakfast from The Garden of Vegan. Remember that book? It's by Tonya Bernard and Sarah Kramer. Blast from the vegan past! It was actually my FIRST vegan cookbook. This simple and filling breakfast is made with crumbled tofu, brown rice, and toast. You spray the tofu/rice mixture with Bragg's and drizzle with flax oil and ketchup. SO GOOD.


Have y'all had these yet? Omg, they taste like chocolate Swedish Fish. Weird. But good. Don't worry — I didn't let Maynard have one. 


I really ought to change the name of this Stuff I Ate series to "Stuff I Did with FitQuick Protein Waffles." This week, I've been enjoying post-run Java Chip FitQuick Waffle Sandwiches with Maple PB, Almond Cocoa Spread, & Banana.


Last week, I made this amazing Birthday Cake FitQuick Waffle with CocoWhip and Fresh Peaches. My mama gave me the peaches from an order she had shipped from Georgia, and these were seriously the best peaches I've ever had in my life. They don't call them Georgia peaches for nothing. Oh, I also drizzled this liberally with maple syrup.


On Saturday, I ran 12 miles downtown, and then I immediately hit up the Memphis Farmers Market. I was hungry! And thirsty! I run with water, but that wasn't cutting it. So I grabbed this Blueberry Matcha Smoothie from the So Fresh juice truck. It had banana, bloobs, red grapes, and matcha green tea. Just what I needed.


So Fresh has the option of adding vegan protein to smoothies, but I already had a good post-run protein treat planned at home. After my run and smoothie, I had this Lenny & Larry's Chocolate Chip Protein Cookie. I've been looking for these forever, and I finally found them at my neighborhood Kroger. They're so soft and delicious and protein-packed (16 grams)! By the way, not all Lenny & Larry's products are vegan, but this cookie is.


That's it for now! I'll go eat some more stuff and get ready for next time. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Vegan Irish Coffee!

I went vegan only a few short years after I hit legal drinking age. But in those three pre-vegan, legal adult years, I developed quite a love for Bailey's Irish Cream. It was sweet. It was creamy. And it made a damn fine White Russian (I believe it's called an Irish White Russian when you add Bailey's). We were huge Big Lebowski fans back then, and you simply couldn't watch that movie without the Dude's favorite cocktail on hand. But after going vegan in 2004, I wrote off White Russians and Bailey's Irish Cream. I figured I'd never have those things again. Sadness.

Then I discovered Joni Marie Newman's vegan Irish cream recipe in Vegan Food Gifts. I make it every year for St. Pat's. But once a year isn't really often enough! So Delicious sent me an assortment of their coconut creamers and culinary coconut milk to review, and with the care package, they included a recipe for Vegan Irish Coffee using homemade Irish cream. St. Pat's was months ago, but Irish coffee sounded wonderful. I made it iced since it's been in the high 90s for most of the summer. Perfect for back porch drinking!


Oh, and So Delicious also included this cute Mason jar mug in my review package. Thanks, So Delicious!

You can find that Irish Coffee recipe here, but these are the most important ingredients. You gotta have So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Creamer, Irish whiskey, and So Delicious Culinary Coconutmilk. It's also got chocolate chips, cane sugar, and coffee. YUM!


I've long been a fan of So Delicious' coffee creamers, but this was my first time using the Culinary Coconutmilk. It's basically the same as canned coconut milk, and it comes in lite and full-fat. They sent me the lite version, and I couldn't tell at all that it was lower fat. It was still very creamy and full-flavored. 

The Irish Coffee recipe only calls for a small amount, so I used the rest in these Creme Brulee Protein Smoothie from the Vega website (recipe here). This is a dreamy dessert smoothie that's actually good for you, and it's loaded with protein, which is perfect for post-workout. It's got coconut milk, vanilla almond yogurt, Vega One French Vanilla protein, a banana, and a date. The coconut milk made this such a creamy smoothie. 


So Delicious also sent me their Original and Hazelnut coffee creamers. Both are coconut-based, but they vary greatly in sweetness. I failed to take a photo of the original container, but y'all have seen it before, I'm sure. It looks just like this hazelnut one, but it's red. 

Both the french vanilla (used in the Irish cream above) and the hazelnut creamers are very sweet, so sweet that you don't need to add additional sugar to your coffee. I love that because I'm always trying to cut back on sugar in the morning. The original, however, is only lightly sweet, so if you're used to sweet coffee, you may need to add sugar when using that one. The hazelnut has a great flavor, and it's probably my favorite of them all. Drinking coffee spiked with hazelnut coconut creamer reminds of me drinking my favorite Starbucks drink — the Toffee Nut Soy Latte (no whip!). 


All this coffee talk has me wishing I could have a cup right now! But I've started becoming more sensitive to caffeine after a certain hour. It used to never affect my sleep, no matter how late I had coffee, but now, if I have coffee late in the day, I'll often wake up in the middle of the night for no reason. I guess this is old age. I have to get to bed in a couple hours, so I guess it's herbal sleepytime tea for me now, but that would great spiked with coconut creamer too! 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

1970s Pasta Power!

At least once or twice a month, I like to develop a new recipe for my vintage vegan cookbook project (you know, the one I've been working on since, like, 2012? ha!). At this rate, I'll probably never finish. But developing new recipes is fun, and I love not having deadlines or time constraints. Maybe my book of veganized trendy foods from the last century will be done someday, but you know, when it happens, it happens.

I've already developed about 100 recipes, so I'm closer to the finish (aiming for about 150) than the start. And it's hard for me to believe that, 100 recipes in, I hadn't yet developed a recipe for one of the most popular dishes of the 1970s! Pasta Primavera! I finally got around to doing that tonight, and I am so pleased with how this came out.


Pasta primavera was invented in Nova Scotia in 1975 by New York chef Sirio Maccioni. He'd flown to the summer home of a rich Italian baron there, and he'd been cooking the baron various dishes with game and fish. But Maccioni and his two top chefs started experimenting and came up with this naturally vegetarian pasta dish with cooked veggies and a butter and cheese sauce. 

I'm saving the recipe for my veganized version for my cookbook. But I'll tell ya that I used a cashew cream base with melted vegan butter, white wine, and lots of garlic for the sauce. It made for such a creamy, cheesy, buttery sauce. The veggies were fresh farmer's market squash and zucchini, plus red bell pepper, broccoli, carrots, and capers from the grocery store. On top is a sprinkle of Follow Your Heart vegan parm. I love how the veggies add such volume to the dish, so you can really make a giant plate of pasta!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Skinny Coconut Oil

Remember how, back the 1990s, coconut was considered the devil? Everyone raved about how unhealthy it was because it was loaded with saturated fat. Little did we realize back then, it wasn't the coconut that was the bad guy. It was the way the oil was hydrogenated, which created what we know now as the real devil — trans fats.

Turns out, plant-based saturated fats are actually good for you. Specifically, the lauric acid (a medium chain sat-fat) found in virgin coconut oil. Nothing makes me happier than knowing fat is good for me! I love fat! I've been using virgin coconut oil for years both in food and on my body as a substitute for lotion.


Skinny & Co. produces raw, alkaline coconut oil. It's cold-pressed and never heated above 97 degrees Fahrenheit. They sent me a jar of their oil to sample and review.


It's so warm in my house and outside that when the package arrived, the oil was liquified and clear. But I placed the jar in the fridge so it would firm up and turn white for a photo shoot. Right now, the jar has found a home on my bathroom counter (and it's clear liquid again), where I've been using it for my new favorite use — oil pulling!

That's right. I've given into the oil pulling hype. If you're not familiar, oil pulling is an ancient tradition that involves swishing coconut oil in your mouth for five to 20 minutes a day. It's believed to protect tooth enamel, loosen stuff stuck in your teeth, whiten teeth, and freshen breath. It's not based in actual science, and I know it's a little hokey. But it makes my mouth feel good, and I only swish for 5 minutes, so it doesn't take much time. My teeth aren't the greatest any more, so I'll try anything. 

Skinny actually sells a special oil-pulling blend spiked with peppermint essential oil, but I may try making that at home since peppermint oil is a staple around my home.

They actually make all kinds of coconut oil-based beauty products — body butter, facial oil, sugar scrub, and soaps. Sadly, their lip balm is not vegan since it contains beeswax. I'll never understand why everyone feels a need to add beeswax to lip balm.

Anyway, of course you can eat it too! On Wednesday morning, I spread a little on some gluten-free toast before topping the toast with tofu for breakfast. I love the slight coconut taste and rich, buttery flavor.


I've also found that Skinny & Co. oil makes the BEST Vegan Bulletproof Coffee! I've tried other coconut oil brands, and they all make for creamy coffee. But the Skinny brand gets a thick layer of foam on top, almost like a coffeeshop cappuccino. I'm skeptical on all the supposed health benefits of bulletproof coffee, but I do love that the added fat makes for a creamy drink and keeps me fuller longer after breakfast.


To make vegan bulletproof coffee, just pour one cup of hot coffee into a blender. Add 1 teaspoon coconut oil, a squeeze of liquid stevia (to taste), 1 teaspoon maca, 2 tablespoons of almond milk, and a dash of cinnamon. Blend until creamy and enjoy hot.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Skinny & Co. is their commitment to sustainability. The company provides resources to build homes and schools in Vietnam, where they're based. And they also teach English there and support local farmers.