Monday, August 31, 2015

Stuff I Ate (and Stuff I Did)

So September 1st begins Vegan Mofo!! For those who don't know, "Vegan Mofo" stands for "Vegan Month of Food," and for the whole month, vegan bloggers, Instagrammers, tweeters, Facebookers, and users of whatever other social media is out there will be blowing up the internet with pictures of delicious vegan food.

It's been going on for years, and I've participated every year (I think). But I'll be honest — I've never been all that excited about Mofo, at least not for my own blogging. I love reading everyone else's posts, especially my blogger friends who don't blog as often the rest of the year. But for me, since I already blog five days a week, it's always been kind of the same thing I always do. And some bloggers choose a theme, but I could never commit to one for a whole month. But this year, I'm going ALL THE WAY. And I'm very excited. I'll be following the official Mofo daily prompts, which are new this year. But more on that tomorrow! Tonight is a pre-Mofo photo dump.

But before we get to the stuff I ate, I wanted to share with y'all what I've been doing for the past couple weekends. Memphis held its first-ever Ren Faire — the Mid-South Renaissance Faire — at Shelby Farms Park, and I went both weekends. The first weekend, I went with a traditional dress and long wig. And it was SO HOT and SO HUMID! My wig hair was all sticking to me. But I looked pretty cool.


Here I am with my friend Pam and her kid Lily. 


The Ren Faire had a Fairy Grove, so that first weekend, as I was sweating my ass off, I decided that the following weekend (which was this past weekend), I would go for a much more minimal look as a faery! It was still very hot, but I was much more comfortable.


But you're here for the food, not my nerdiness! I've been eating lots of good stuff, as usual. I've been doing a ton of eating out, so I haven't had much in the way of leftovers for lunches since I've not cooked much. And that means lunches of Amy's soups and frozen burritos. One day last week, I had this Amy's Vegetable Barley Soup with Hummus Toast.


Speaking of eating out, I'm making it a point to visit Cassi's new place, Pink Diva Cupcakery, once a week for lunch. She was doing themed daily menu specials, but now she's got a small menu so people can choose. Last Wednesday, my co-workers and I stopped in for big ole plates of BBQ Tofu Nachos!! So good!!


My friends and I have been brunching almost every Sunday at Imagine Vegan Cafe for years (since they relaunched brunch a year ago and during the original brunch run several years ago). We brunch so much that I've started ordering off the regular, non-brunch menu to mix it up. Yesterday, I got the Southern Staple — brown rice, black beans, collard greens, garlic sauce and cornbread on the side. Love all that garlic sauce! Plus, I added sriracha, like I do.


The Sunday before last, I went with a more traditional brunch of Vegan Sausage & Cheese Quiche with Salad and a side of Mac & Cheese. Stephanie makes the quiche, and it's to die for. Our friend Pam orders it EVERY SINGLE WEEK.


Last Tuesday was Vegan Drinks night! And we met at Memphis' newest Ethiopian joint, The Blue Nile. Mmmm ... injera bread. I ordered the Vegetarian Platter and a Lagunitas IPA, and I'm proud to report that I cleaned my plate. No leftovers here. 


Y'all remember that vegan pizza special I mentioned last week? My neighborhood pizza joint, Midtown Crossing Grill, was offering a vegan cheese pizza called The Goodman as a test item last week. Of course, I had to stop in and get one! This has two kinds of vegan cheese — mozzarella and cream cheese — and potatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. Ridiculously good!


That's it! See y'all tomorrow for Mofo!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Upton's Naturals Jackfruit!

It's here! It's here! Upton's Naturals Jackfruit is here! The makers of the world's best seitan (in my humble opinion) are now the makers of the world's best jackfruit meal starters.


If you're not familiar with jackfruit, it's this stringy fruit that resembles pulled pork or carnitas in both taste (if it's seasoned well) and texture. Vegans use the unripe jackfruit flesh for savory dishes, so even though it's a fruit, it's not sweet. Of course, people all over the world eat the ripe, sweet fruit, too. But for vegan purposes, we're talking about the not-so-sweet, unripe fruit. 

You can buy whole jackfruit in Asian markets, but they're HUGE. And it looks like it would take an experienced jackfruit butcher (did I just coin a new term??) to hack into it. I typically buy plain already-chopped jackfruit packed in brine in a can. And then I season it with whatever sauce I'm using and slow-cook it until tender.

But Upton's Naturals has done all the work for you! These two new jackfruit meal starters are so freakin' handy. You just open the package, heat in a skillet, and serve. They sent me two packages to try and review, and I absolutely love them both.

I used the Chili-Lime Carinitas Jackfruit to make the first tacos I've eaten since Vida Vegan Con in Austin last May. And boy did I miss tacos! These were so very good.


The jackfruit has a strong lime flavor and a mild hint of chili. Think taco meat with taco seasoning in it but with added lime. I sauteed it with some hot peppers to step up the heat. And then I topped with an easy slaw made with shredded cabbage, rice vinegar, olive oil, diced chiles, salt, and pepper. That's topped with spicy guacamole and Yellowbird Jalapeno Sauce. Since every component was spicy, these tacos made my nose run a bit. But that's the way I like it. Spice-aphobes can have a totally mild taco with this jackfruit if they don't add any spice.

Tonight, I used the Bar-B-Que Jackfruit to make a classic 'cue sandwich with coleslaw on a whole wheat bun.


This jackfruit was my favorite of the two, but that's only because I'm a Memphis girl through and through, and I love me some barbecue. The jackfruit comes coated in a vinegar-heavy sauce, and I like mine just a tad sweeter. So I added a tablespoon of Muddy Pond Bold Barbecue Sauce, a regionally made sauce that gets its sweetness from Southern sorghum. For the slaw, I just mixed some shredded cabbage with Just Mayo, salt, and pepper. 

With both of these starters, dinner was on the table in 15 minutes. And that's only because I had to mix up some coleslaw. I'm so glad Upton's has made jackfruit easier and more approachable! Now, I just hope my local Whole Foods will start carrying it!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gluten-Free Crackers & Cookies!

I'm not gluten-free. But I enjoy eating gluten-free foods occasionally because they offer a different taste and texture. And because they're made with different grains and non-wheat flours, I feel like gluten-free products help me vary my diet. As a bonus, I can take a gluten-free, vegan dish to a potluck and pretty much everyone can eat it!

Mary's Gone Crackers is one of the leading names in gluten-free crackers and other treats. And they sent me a bunch of stuff to try and review! All of their crackers and treats are gluten-free, non-gmo, and vegan.

On the savory side, there were Italian Herb Thins and Original Crackers.


The Italian Herb Thins were my favorite of all the products they sent. These crisp, thin crackers have a light crunch, and they're packed with herb flavor. The rosemary, basil, and oregano stand out the most, and although I don't see it in the ingredients, there's a hint of tomato flavor. They're made with a blend of flours that includes tapioca starch, brown rice, quinoa, mesquite, sprouted black bean, and sprouted buckwheat. 


The Original Crackers are much more heavy than the Thins. Rather than being baked with gluten-free flour, these crackers are made with whole grains. The first ingredient in the list is organic brown rice, followed by quinoa, flaxseed, sesame seed, and so on. They're crunchy and chewy at the same time. Although not raw, they have a similar taste and texture to raw flax crackers. And they're quite delicious with hummus! These also come in so many other flavors, like Black Pepper, Caraway, and Jalapeno, to name a few.


Next up are the Sea Salt Pretzels.


These are like the Original Crackers but in pretzel form. They have basically the same ingredient list, although the pretzels have some extra stuff like amaranth, millet, and chia seeds. Also excellent for hummus dippin'. They also come in Chipotle Tomato (yum!) and Everything. I'd love to try the others!


Mary's Gone Crackers makes more than crackers though! They also make cookies! And they sent me two kinds to try — Cocoa Minis and Ginger Snap Cookies.


The Cocoa Minis remind me of a healthier, gluten-free version of Teddy Grahams. Remember those? Maybe they still make them. I don't know. But I used to eat them all the time when I was a kid. These are made with a gluten-free flour blend, and they're sweetened with prune extract and tapioca syrup. I'm not gonna lie. They definitely taste like health cookies. And that gluten-free taste is detectable. But they're good. Maybe not if you're looking for junk food. But perfect for those times when you want something sweet that won't make you feel guilty. Also, they come in fun celestial shapes! Other flavors include Graham and Vanilla.


The Ginger Snaps Cookies are amazing! Granted, I'm a little biased because I love me some ginger snaps. But these don't taste overly healthy, and if you hadn't told me, I'd have never guessed these were gluten-free. The ginger flavor comes from organic ginger root puree and powder, so it's quite strong and doesn't taste artificial. They're super crispy and perfect for dunking in chia tea, which is how I enjoyed these this afternoon. The cookies also come in Double Chocolate, N'Oatmeal Raisin, and Chocolate Chip.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tempeh BLT with Miyoko's Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese

So I was planning on saving this sandwich recipe for Vegan Mofo, which starts September 1st, but I needed a post for tonight. And it just makes sense to follow yesterday's review of Miyoko's Creamery Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash with another Miyoko's Creamery post. They sent me a few cheeses to review and develop recipes with, and tonight, I'll be sharing my recipe for a Tempeh BLT with Miyoko's Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese.


The Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese is my second favorite of all of Miyoko's line of vegan, nut-based cheeses. It's soft like a cream cheese, and it melts in your mouth — literally. It's LOADED with chives and bursting with flavor. In the past, I've enjoyed it spread on bagels or slices of toasted garlic bread.


But last week, I used Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese as a sandwich spread on a vegan BLT. And it really took my otherwise-standard bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich over the top. I made my own tempeh bacon, of course. And I spread one slice of toast with Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese and another with vegan mayo (I used Just Mayo by Hampton Creek) and sriracha.

Here's the recipe!

Tempeh BLT with Miyoko's Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese
Yields 1 sandwich

2 slices toasted whole wheat bread
3 slices tempeh bacon (recipe below)
2 slices tomato
1 leaf of romaine or green leaf lettuce
1 ounce Miyoko's Creamery Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese
1/2 Tbsp. vegan mayo
Sriracha, optional

To assemble, spread one slice of bread with the Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese and spread the mayo on the other. Add any desired sriracha to the side with the mayo.

Lay the lettuce leaf on the slice with the cream chive cheese. Top with tomatoes and then bacon. Top with the remaining slice of bread. Eat!


Tempeh Bacon
1 8-ounce package tempeh
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. hoison sauce
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. Liquid Smoke

Slice the tempeh lengthwise into about 12 long, thin strips. Steam tempeh in a steamer basket over boiling water for 10 minutes. Or if you don’t own a steamer basket, place tempeh directly in enough water to cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Mix the veggie broth, soy sauce, hoison, maple syrup, and Liquid Smoke in a large storage container. Place tempeh slices in container and make sure liquid is covering each slice. Marinate overnight.

To cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drain marinade and place strips on a greased baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes and flip each slice. Then bake for 10 more minutes.


Makes about 12 slices.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Vegan Wine & Cheese Party for One!

Last weekend, Paul took a few days off to visit his parents in Nashville. I stayed home to attend Memphis' first-ever Renaissance Faire (yes, of course I dressed up!). And that meant having the whole house all to myself all weekend. It was glorious! I'm an only child, and I grew up having loads of "me time." So I'm perfectly content being alone.

So what I did do? I had a party for one! When I got home from work Friday night, I pulled up Netflix and picked out a good movie (The Devil's Knot — the narrative film about the West Memphis Three). I poured myself a glass of petite syrah. And I made a fancy spread.


There are slices of toasted artisan garlic bread, dolmas, marinated mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves, olives, cherry tomatoes from my garden, baby carrots, slices of Braeburn apple, and two kinds of cheese from Miyoko's CreameryClassic Double Cream Chive and Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash.

I was sent a few of Miyoko's cheeses to review, and since I'd reviewed most of the flavors before, I'm using those for recipes or sharing with others and getting their feedback. I've reviewed the Classic Double Cream Chive before here, and I'll be posting a sandwich recipe using it very soon (saving that for Vegan Mofo next month). It's melt-in-your-mouth creamy and popping with oniony flavor. Probably my second favorite of all Miyoko's nut cheeses.


But the Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash was totally new to me. And I wasn't sure what to expect. The outside is coated in black ash, so it's a little messy. But aren't most good things messy?


I don't know how to compare this cheese to a dairy counterpart because I was never into fancy cheeses before going vegan. I loved cheese back then, but I grew up in Arkansas, and my tastes are quite pedestrian. I was into American slices, Velveeta, and cheddar shreds, not stinky cheese with fancy names.

That said, I'm a little classier now (only a tad!), and I do appreciate a good, complex, aged cashew cheese. So while I can't describe what this compares to, I can tell you that it's a medium-soft cheese with a buttery flavor. There's a slight tang there, too, but it's not over-powering. Miyoko's website recommends pairing it with fruit, so I interspersed bites of the black ash cheese with bites of crisp apple. Perfect pairing!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Eat Like You Give a Damn

It's official — I have a new favorite cookbook. Eat Like You Give a Damn by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten of Herbivore Clothing Company!

I mean, it just makes sense that I'd fall in love with this book. A large chunk of my wardrobe is made up of tees and hoodies from Herbivore. For years, I've had Herbivore bumper stickers on all of my cars (and yes, I've had a lot of cars because I've had a lot of wrecks — never my fault, though). Michelle and Josh are adorable people, and their book is filled with easy and delicious vegan meals. And I want to make EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

This book is so Portland. As you may know, Herbivore has a storefront in Portland in the vegan mini-mall. So of course, Michelle and Josh eat like Portlanders — bowls, chunky tofu scrambles, soy curls, loads of nooch. Flipping through it reminds me of past visits to Portland, a.k.a. The Vegan Mothership. It brings me back.

I had a hard time deciding what to try for this review because everything sounded (and looked) amazing — Kale, Tempeh & Tomato Salad; Praise Seitan Vegan Roast; No-Bird Noodle Soup; Sweet Potato Ravioli with Popeye Pesto Sauce; Roasted Beet Burgers; Skillet Taco Pizza; and bowl after bowl of awesomeness. How could I possibly choose?? I finally settled on four recipes because I couldn't pick just one.

Of course, a bowl was a must! This Curry-Barbecue Soy Curls Bowls called out at me on my first flip through the book.


It has all the things I need in life — soy curls simmered in sweet 'n' tangy BBQ sauce, Southern-style braised collard greens and corn, wholesome brown rice, and a homemade chunky vegan blue cheese dressing. I added a touch of Austin to my Portland by adding a drizzle of Yellowbird Habanero Sauce. 

These flavors work so well together! The dressing has chunky bits of tofu that simulate chunky blue cheese (minus the mold! yay!), and since it's made with tahini and vegan mayo, it's super-duper creamy and thick. The soy curls are simmered in the BBQ sauce for a long time, so they get really plump and juicy and soak up all that flavor. This dish is like last-meal-on-earth good.

I saw that Cadry of Cadry's Kitchen tried the Herbivore's Tofu Scramble in her review of this book, and she compared it the amazing tofu scramble that we all had at Bouldin Creek Cafe in Austin during Vida Vegan Con 3. So I had to see for myself!


And she was right! This is eerily similar to Bouldin Creek's scramble, which was a drier, noochier, chunkier scramble than I'm used to. That scramble and the Herbivore one seem closer in texture and taste to real eggs, which is awesome because 11 years into veganism, I still miss eggs sometimes. 

I also love that this scramble is veggie-less. I always add veggies to beef up the nutrition factor in my scram. But let's face it — the best part is the tofu. Veggies just get in the way. Better to have them as a side dish, which is what I did this morning. I had my scram with a side of steamed kale and cracked wheat toast with lemon jam.

I tried another breakfast recipe from Eat Like You Give a DamnNut Butter & Bacon Toast!


This is just toast spread with any nut butter (I opted for a chia peanut spread) and topped with homemade vegan bacon. They give two bacon recipes — one for tempeh bacon and one for coconut bacon. I made the coconut bacon, and it's just perfect. The recipe warned that the coconut bacon might get soft if wasn't used right away, but not so with mine. It has stayed crunchy for two weeks now in a plastic Tupperware bowl! I used most of it last week, but I have a tad left that I'm saving for salads. 

Finally, y'all know I love my smoothies, so I had to try one from the book. I went with the Minty Kale-Pear Smoothie so I could sneak some more greens into my diet.


It has kale, pear, banana, mint, plant milk, vanilla, and molasses (but I subbed out maple because that's what I had on-hand). Just a perfect combination. Filling, nutritious, delicious.

Eat Like You Give a Damn is sure to become one of my go-to staple books. There are so many more recipes that I need to try — like I said earlier, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. But I think next on my list is the Sweetpea Snickerdoodle. You see, right next door to Herbivore in the vegan mini-mall is Sweetpea Baking Company, an amazing vegan bakery. And they've shared their snickerdoodle recipe for this book! Can't wait to try that!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Vegan Pizza Special at Midtown Crossing!

Hey Memphis readers, this post is for you! This week, Midtown Crossing Grill is offering a special vegan pizza called The Goodman, named after one of their regular customers.


They're trying it out for the week to see how well it goes over. And if it goes over well, they'll add The Goodman to their upcoming new menu. I had the chance to try it a few weeks ago as a tester, and let me tell ya — THIS IS THE BEST VEGAN PIZZA IN MEMPHIS. Seriously.

There are currently eight — count 'em, EIGHT — places in Memphis to get a vegan cheese pizza these days. Crazy, right? In my early days as a vegan here, I'd never have imagined that could happen. All of those places have excellent pizza, and each has it's strong points. But Midtown Crossing wins for best with this one.

The Goodman is made with two kinds of vegan cheese — vegan mozzarella shreds and vegan cream cheese — and that makes for an incredibly creamy, cheesy pizza. It's also topped with tomato sauce, potatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. And all of that is layered upon some of the best pizza crust this city to offer. Somehow, it's soft, crispy, and chewy all at the same time. Perfection.

So Memphis, let's show Midtown Crossing that we want The Goodman on the regular menu! This is my neighborhood bar, and I'm so happy they've become so vegan-friendly. Besides The Goodman special, they also have a vegan Greek Flatbread with hummus and olives, amazing spring rolls, and there's a vegan banh mi named after me (the Bianca Banh Mi!).

Midtown Crossing Grill is located at 394 N. Watkins. You can call ahead at 901-443-0502. The Goodman will be available all week!